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Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke has seen enough of his underachieving club.
Sunday morning, Burke remade the Maple Leafs with two bold moves, acquiring defenseman Dion Phaneuf and goalie J.S. Giguere in separate trades.
"We are in buying and selling mode," Burke said during his morning press conference to announce a deal for Phaneuf, who comes aboard with two other players from the Calgary Flames in exchange for four players.
The complete deal was Phaneuf, right wing Fredrik Sjostrom and prospect Keith Aulie to Toronto for forwards Niklas Hagman, Matt Stajan, Jamal Mayers and defenseman Ian White.
Calgary, which defeated Edmonton on Saturday night for its first win in 10 games, had been working with the Leafs on the framework of this deal for more than a week. Phaneuf is the big, physically dominating defenseman who defines Burke's philosophy.
Burke thought he had obtained that player in the summer, signing Montreal's Mike Komisarek to a free-agent deal. But Komisarek's season has been derailed by a slow start and a shoulder injury.
"He is a warrior," Burke said of Phaneuf. "He's got a cannon for a shot. He plays the game hard and I want players who play the game hard because they're hard to play against."
Now, the hard-hitting Phaneuf, drafted by the Flames in the first round, No. 9, in 2003, gets his chance to do that for Burke
"It was definitely a shock, but I'm very excited about going to Toronto and being a Maple Leaf. It's part of the business. It's a cliché … if Wayne Gretzky can get traded anyone can get traded. I was very surprised, but on the other hand I'm very excited to be going to the biggest hockey market in the world." -- Dion Phaneuf
Phaneuf has 10 goals and 12 assists with a plus- 3 rating in 55 games this season. Those numbers are respectable, but he has spent some time in the doghouse of first-year coach Brent Sutter. Plus, Calgary was looking to make a deal after struggling throughout the month of January.
"It was definitely a shock, but I'm very excited about going to Toronto and being a Maple Leaf," an emotional Phaneuf told reporters. "It's part of the business. It's a cliché … if Wayne Gretzky can get traded anyone can get traded. I was very surprised, but on the other hand I'm very excited to be going to the biggest hockey market in the world."
The Maple Leafs have struggled all season and may have hit rock bottom less than 24 hours earlier when they blew a 3-0 lead at home in dropping a 5-3 decision to Vancouver.
Toronto sits in the basement of the Eastern Conference with just 17 wins and 45 points this season and it has allowed an NHL-worse 197 goals.
Burke was back at the podium later in the day to announce the acquisition of Giguere from the Anaheim Ducks. Sent to Anaheim were goalie Vesa Toskala and winger Jason Blake.
Giguere had to waive his no-trade clause in his contract for the move to happen, but, certainly, the chance to be reunited with Burke and goalie coach Francois Allaire made that more palatable.
"I'm excited about that obviously," Giguere said. "I have a great deal of respect for Burkie and what he’s done in the past and what he's trying to do in Toronto.
"I'm excited to be working with Frankie again, we had a great relationship in Anaheim and I believe that relationship is going to keep going. I talked to Frankie already today. I think between me, Jonas (Gustavsson) and Frankie we can have a really good working relationship and find a way to do something good there.
"I would have liked to stay in Anaheim, when I re-signed here a few years ago, I envisioned things going differently," Giguere said. "But I could see that they were leaning toward Jonas and at 32-years-old, I feel like I still have some hockey left in me, so I wanted to try to get a chance to be a No. 1 goalie somewhere and I feel like in Anaheim it wasn't going to happen. So I’m glad now I can get that chance again."
Giguere, 32, is the winningest goalie in Ducks history and led the franchise to its only Stanley Cup title in 2007, but he and his hefty contract became excess to needs with the emergence of Swiss goalie Jonas Hiller, who not only stole the No. 1 job, but just signed a four-year contract extension this week.
Giguere was the only player left from Anaheim's trip to the 2003 Stanley Cup Final, where he was voted the Conn Smythe Trophy despite being on the losing end of a seven-game series against New Jersey.
In the Phaneuf deal, the Maple Leafs also get Sjostrom, a veteran winger who has played 46 games with 1 goal and 5 assists for Calgary this season. But it may be Aulie who defines the long-term success of this deal. A fourth-round pick in the 2007 Entry Draft, Aulie is another big, shutdown defenseman. He was used effectively in that role during his World Junior Championship appearance for Team Canada. This season, Aulie (6-foot-6) is with the Abbotsford Heat of the AHL, but is expected to move to the Toronto Marlies.
Calgary, meanwhile, gets a ton of scoring depth and an underrated offensive defenseman in White, who is a little on the small side. White has 9 goals, 17 assists and a plus-1 rating in 56 games. His 26 points are four more than Phaneuf has put up this season.
Hagman has 20 goals and 13 assists, while Stajan has 16 goals and 25 assists this season. Stajan is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Each has played 55 games. Mayers has 2 goals 6 assists and 78 penalty minutes during 44 games. He recently asked to be traded.
"Everybody thinks players gets traded because teams don't like them, when really it's totally the other way," Flames GM Darryl Sutter said in a press conference. "When you have significant players involved in significant deals, there's reasons that they are that."
Calgary, which once was battling with Vancouver and Colorado for the Northwest Division lead, is currently tied with Detroit for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff berth.
"It's going to play itself out -- that's the best part about our game, it's about performance," Sutter said. "You can do it on paper like we do in the summer, but there's no rights or wrongs. You find out with performance. The guys we have coming in are all having good years, so that's what you want, to continue it."
I can see that they needed to free up cap space especially since their D men are taking up almost like 25-30 million, but I would kept Phaneuf on the top of the keep list as opposed to some of the other defencemen