Comments / New

The Day After: Evaluating (and Judging!) the Phaneuf-Gaborik Trade

The Los Angeles Kings and their fans desperately needed a distraction as last night’s game wound down, and in a big way, they got one. Dion Phaneuf, after years of trade deadline rumors, will finally wear black and white.

The Jewels from the Crown staff, as they so often are, was filled with mixed feelings in the aftermath of last night’s trade. J. James was pleased. Robyn was not. Who do you think got the better of this deal? Vote, then read on for more analysis.

Which team got the better end of Tuesday’s trade?

Los Angeles (D Dion Phaneuf, C Nate Thompson) 280
Ottawa (RW Marian Gaborik, C Nick Shore, retained 25% of Phaneuf’s salary) 87

In the immediate wake of the trade announcement, I was actually more upset about losing Nick Shore for Nate Thompson. That end of the deal was a clear win for the Ottawa Senators. Shore was putting up some of the best possession statistics on the squad despite getting primarily defensive zone starts; Thompson was receiving similar starts and doing much worse with them. Shore doesn’t score too much; Thompson doesn’t score at all. Shore is young; Thompson is not. This was probably LA’s way of sweetening the pot, especially as Ottawa retained salary, and they didn’t have to give up any futures. But it’s still unfortunate.

Then again, we might as well forget about money, other pieces, and our love for Nick Shore. With apologies to Marian Gaborik, this trade will be judged solely on Dion Phaneuf’s play. If LA is getting the same Phaneuf that has been playing for Ottawa this season, they’ll be disappointed:

Last season was slightly better, as Phaneuf scored less but wasn’t dragging his team back into the defensive zone to the same extent he has this season. In Ottawa’s surprising run to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals he was steady, if unspectacular, and though he was scoreless in 17 of 19 playoff games he continued to log big minutes throughout. Is there something to be said for a lack of motivation and drive in Ottawa’s lost 2017-18 season? I doubt it, but anything that could give a 32-year-old with over 1000 games (regular season+playoffs) a temporary burst of energy is welcome.

He’ll need it, too; LA isn’t paying Phaneuf $5 million-plus to play on the third pair. Very early returns indicate Phaneuf could debut next to Alec Martinez tomorrow, making him LA’s #3/#4 dman after a season sent as Ottawa’s #3 next to Cody Ceci (who’s had a nightmarish season of his own). In every indirect way, I really like this, as the rest of the defense lines up beautifully in this configuraton.

How will Phaneuf and Martinez mesh, though? Martinez has also been a drag on possession, has also been handed tough assignments, and has also blocked a bunch of shots. The pair mimic each other’s styles and will likely be a typical “stopper” pair playing mostly in their own end, and even if their Corsi numbers stay poor, they’ll get judged solely on whether they can keep pucks out of the net. Their ability to generate offense is a massive question mark, but that’s going to be the case for Phaneuf regardless. (Unless he skates with Drew Doughty.)

We’ll have 20 minutes a night to find out whether he can handle these responsibilities.

Talking Points