Sportspinions: Is Phaneuf worth it?

By Gauntlet Contributor

Life is full of surprises. This seems to be pretty obvious and yet, things we often regard as “surprises” can usually be seen coming from a mile away. Having sex without protection? Surprise! You’re pregnant. Smoking and tanning everyday until you are as orange as Hulk Hogan and sound like a busted muffler? Surprise! You have cancer. The point is, there are some things out there that if you take a moment to think about, you will realize they’re not all that surprising. That leads to today’s subject–or tomorrow’s big surprise, if you prefer: Dion Phaneuf and the Calgary Flames.

Flames fan or not, if you live in Calgary or the neighbouring vicinity, you know what the man brings to the table every night: booming shot, intensity in spades, demolishing hits and the occasional donnybrook. You will also likely have noted his ill-advised pinching, frequent defensive lapses and penchant for looking for the big hit to the dismay of his hapless defensive partner. Given time, his upside is a probable future Norris Trophy and a spot on the Team Canada Olympic blue line. Having him as the centrepiece of Calgary’s defensive corps for the foreseeable future would be fantastic, save for the fact that he is a restricted free agent at the end of the season which calls into question his future with the Flaming C.

The ultimate length of Phaneuf’s tenure with the Calgary Flames will be predicated upon two things: Calgary’s willingness to show him fair money and his desire to stay in the city. Those two things don’t have to be mutually exclusive. General Manager Darryl Sutter recently tagged Phaneuf as one of the “core” guys here in Calgary, putting him in the same breath as players such as Jarome Iginla, Robyn Regehr and Miika Kipprusoff. Looking at all of those players’ contracts, you will note that, despite being considered among the best at their position, they are not paid as such. If you believe what’s written in the papers and what the talking heads are saying on TV then you’ll know that–allegedly–Phaneuf wants a lot of money to stay here, perhaps more annually than the Captain himself. This is where it all gets a little messy. If this is the case, then the logical move at the conclusion of the season would be to trade Phaneuf and his potentially massive cap hit away. This probably sounds like blasphemy to many but if one considers the facts, they may agree.

Since the lockout, Calgary has been viewed as an annual Stanley Cup contender, only to fall short every season. While the team has changed from year to year, the main guns have all remained the same more or less. If the Flames ultimately fail in their bid to host the holy grail at the end of this season–and there is little suggest that it will happen–then logic would dictate major changes are needed. It’s this line of thinking that says Calgary shouldn’t resign Langkow or Huselius if they get ousted in the first round. Why keep using the same tools when they are not building you the house you want? Phaneuf fits in this category as well. While he may be young and exceptionally talented, the value he could command on the trade market would be a tempting. The next two drafts are considered very strong. If trading McGuire’s Monster could yield a bevy of young draft picks, why not consider it? We have our three most important players under contract for the next five years, so what’s the harm in taking one step back to move two steps ahead to the organization’s ultimate goal of winning a Cup? If any of this makes sense to Darryl Sutter in Jun., don’t act surprised when number three isn’t wearing our red sweater anymore.

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