February 2, 2010
Evolution of Phaneuf trade'We both agreed it made sense on Friday:' Burke
By STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency
The meeting was convened on Nov. 15. That was the first time Dion Phaneuf’s name came up in any meaningful way with the Maple Leafs.
Frustrated over the fact the Leafs season had started so poorly, Brian Burke called a meeting of his top executives, Dave Nonis and Dave Poulin, and asked a rather basic question: How do we get better?
The three men were asked to rank the Leafs’ biggest needs in order.
“We all felt we needed a stud defenceman,” Burke said.
Six defencemen around the NHL were identified. One of them was Phaneuf. And thus the trade journey of the blockbuster began.
“We went through the list and started making calls,” Burke said. “If the first guy wasn’t available, we went to the second guy.”
Burke called Calgary general manager Darryl Sutter and asked about Phaneuf’s availability in November. He was told, quite clearly, that the defenceman was not available.
The two general managers spoke regularly — as most GMs do — over the past months but something changed less than two weeks ago. Burke was talking to Sutter on the phone when the conversation shifted.
“He said: 'I might move a defenceman.' My ears perked up at that,” Burke said.
The Flames needed some scoring and some salary cap flexibility, among the many problems on their troubled team. They also needed, according to Alberta sources, to break up a dressing room rift between Phaneuf's faction and that of Robyn Regehr. In the end, Sutter sided with Regehr rather than with Phaneuf.
The trade talks with Toronto began in earnest that day. Burke said: “If you were going to put a guy like Phaneuf in play, what would it take?” Then the Leafs did what most NHL teams do when talking trade. They provided the Flames with a list of all their signed and unsigned players, indicating which players they would consider moving and which ones they wouldn’t move.
According to sources familiar with the deal, the first player Calgary asked for from the list was Hagman. They liked his scoring, his contract, and what he could do for the Flames. But the deal was never intended to be one-for-one.
The Flames needed to get a defenceman back in the deal. That's how Ian White's name came up. White was appealing to the Flames because of his strong play and rather inexpensive contract. The Leafs didn't necessarily want to give White away. But for them to make the trade, White and Hagman had to be included.
The conversations then progressed. The Flames asked for Matt Stajan. Burke had every intention of trading Stajan, a soon-to-be free agent, at the upcoming deadline.
He had tried to deal him a year ago. Parting with Stajan wasn't that difficult. But he didn't want to make a 3-for-1 trade. He wanted to expand the deal.
Between the first conversation and the confirmation e-mail late Saturday night that the deal was put to bed, there were all kinds of permutations between the Leafs and the Flames discussed. They talked about draft picks. They talked about other players. They went through the process diligently.
To the outside world, Sutter may come across as mumbling and rarely revealing.
“He’s a prairie boy,” Burke said. “There was never any confusion in our talks. He was straight forward, I was straight forward.
“Darryl Sutter displayed more innovation and creativity than I did. He did a real good job in getting this deal done.”
The talks expanded as time went on. The Leafs asked for minor-league defenceman Keith Aulie. The Flames balked at first, then worked their away around getting the three players they really wanted and then adding Jamal Mayers, who already had asked to be traded. The deal would add four players to their lineup, with only two players departing from their major league roster. Eventually Mayers and Fredrik Sjostrom were included to complete the deal.
“I think we both agreed it made sense on Friday,” Burke said. “I ran the deal by Richard Peddie. He ran the deal by his ownership group. It’s not necessarily for approval, just to let them know what’s going on. We wanted all hands on deck for Saturday. We had to get through the games on Saturday night with everybody healthy.
“I e-mailed (Sutter) after our game. He e-mailed me back after the second period of their game. I went to sleep after that.”
Now Burke can’t wait to see how Phaneuf plays as a Leaf.
“I like this trade,” he said.
“But I like it for both teams. We get what we need. They get what they need. I think they’ll make the playoffs and probably win a round or two. This should end up as a win for everybody.”