Sometimes there’s just not much there to hate

Phaneuf signing pic Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 5.36.16 PM

So Dion Phaneuf signed a new contract, and there’s been a pretty exceptional amount of mouth frothing on account of it.

I get that people don’t really like Phaneuf all that much, but is seven years at $7 million per season really that bad when you think about it?

Of course, I’m predicating all of this on the idea that the salary cap is going to start going up, and up. And maybe up some more.

With Rogers dumping $5.2 billion into the NHL economy over the next 10 years that might become a pretty pedestrian salary by the end of it… hell, maybe even by year two.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie recently speculated that Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews could possibly be earning $11-12 million per season on their next contracts (which expire just as the money will start rolling in).

So with the realization that $7 million might be pretty mid-range for a contract in the next seven years, maybe we should temper our concern.

Pundits and the peanut gallery have brayed non-stop over the last month about just how awful 29-year-old defenseman is. And let’s be certain, there’s some stuff not love about Phaneuf’s play, or his deal. But hate? Hate is so strong, and in this case, so unnecessary.

Is he going to be a quality player at the end of the deal? Hard to say. He’ll only be 36 once it’s done, which is plenty young for lots of quality defenseman.

But Bruce Arthur of the National Post put it well when he said, “this is what the Leafs have, so this is what the Leafs have to hold on to.”

Maybe it was the act of signing the deal that played into what people didn’t like about it? It went on a little publicly, then was oh so perfectly timed to happen right before the Winter Classic… and then there was that silly collage photo of the signing on the Leafs Twitter account.

But the biggest concern for anyone who is evaluating a contract in a salary cap system should always be pretty simple: How much of my pool of (financial) resources is being taken up by this asset, and is that amount proportionate to the player’s value?

And in this case, it’s not an extravagant amount for what you get, or at least it’s not going to be.

I get that some of the advanced metrics, like Corsi and Fenwick paint an ugly picture of him, but in all fairness to hockey’s advanced stats (and I dig that hockey is getting into them), I think there’s still some issues with them – notably, measuring shot quality versus quantity.

At the risk of sounding like a dinosaur from the Don Cherry School of Hockey, Phaneuf really does eat big minutes against top lines. He may not be the best defenseman in the league, but he’s still doing an admirable job against other teams top lines.

Be angrier about the David Clarkson deal. Pretty sure most beer-leaguers could get paid an AAV (average annual value) of $5.25 to rake in suspensions and be invisible on the ice. At present, he is the one wasting cap space.

You may not like Phaneuf, and he may not be the best player on the ice any given night, but he is a good player, and a consistent one nonetheless. His deal seems like a lot right now, especially when you compare it to other top flight defensemen. But if that cap goes up, this deal is going to look just fine in the long run.

Besides, not that long ago this was a team that signed Jeff Finger to a 4-year deal at $3.5 per year! Surely they’re getting better at this whole “signing defensemen” thing! Hooray for progress. 

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