Phaneuf: 'It was a shock'

STEVE MacFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

CALGARY Many Flames fans seemed desperate to see Dion Phaneuf pull on another teams jersey.

They got their wish Sunday.

But dont mistake their hopes for Phaneufs.

The 24-year-old former Flames defenceman was clearly shaken after finding out hed been traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs along with winger Fredrik Sjostrom and blueline prospect Keith Aulie in exchange for forwards Niklas Hagman, Matt Stajan, Jamal Mayers, and defenceman Ian White.

It was a shock, said an emotional Phaneuf, whod just bid his teammates goodbye before addressing a media mob in the Saddledome hallway outside the Flames dressing room.

It was definitely a shock.

Rumours surrounding Phaneuf ranging from a rift with head coach Brent Sutter to the player demanding a trade this month have circulated all season, but Flames GM Darryl Sutter shot them alldown in recent interviews.

Phaneuf again denied he ever requested a trade.

No, I didnt, he said.

Unless hes been taking acting lessons along with Hollywood girlfriend Elisha Cuthbert, no one would doubt that after seeing his face following a teary farewell.

The toughest part is saying goodbye to your buddies, said Phaneuf, who didnt find out until this morning hed be on the move.

You guys probably found out before me.

He didnt look it, but the $6.5-million defenceman drafted ninth overall in 2003 said repeatedly how thrilled he was to be heading to the Leafs.

Im very excited to be going to the biggest hockey market in the world, he said. Im excited to be going to a team that wants me.

Leafs GM Brian Burke made that perfectly clear while talking up Phaneufs talents in Toronto Sunday.

Of course the centerpiece of the deal is Dion Phaneuf, Burke said. A couple of words come to mind with him like elite player.

Hes a warrior. Hes got a cannon for a shot, and he plays the game hard. I want players that play the game hard.

He makes our powerplay better. Hes a big hitter, and a quality human being. Were thrilled to have him.

Burke has been trying to pry Phaneuf from the Flames for months, but Sutter wasnt willing to negotiate earlier in the year.

We asked about him earlier in the year and the answer was no. It was a short conversation, Burke said. Darryl said, Were not interesting in moving him.

I think part of the dynamic here was that Calgary has kind of slipped out of the position they want to be in, in the West. And this shores them up instantly at several positions. The deal makes sense for them.

Strength on the blueline with the emergence of Mark Giordano made it work for the Flames, a team that has struggled to score goals and spiraled into a nine-game losing streak before finally getting back into the win column with a 6-1 decision over the Edmonton Oilers Saturday night.

Phaneuf scored his 10th goal in the victory, and has a pair in the last three outings.

As for what is next for the young defenceman who went from Norris Trophy finalist to a the focus of a massive contingent of angry Flames fans, it was a short list on a day hell remember as one of the toughest of his NHL career.

Im heading to Toronto, Phaneuf said before being escorted out of the building by an entourage of cameramen capturing every painful moment.

Right now Im just focusing on getting my bags packed.


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