Dion Phaneuf

Columnist: Time for Leafs to trade Phaneuf

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For one Toronto columnist, Dion Phaneuf’s bad pinch during overtime of Wednesday’s Game 4 that led to the Bruins’ game-winner, and a 3-1 series lead for Boston, was the last straw.

Writes David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail:

The pinch on Boston winger Nathan Horton wasn’t even the first time that night that Phaneuf went for the big hit at the blueline, missed and created a Bruins scoring chance. He also gambled with the puck too often in the third period, creating anxious moments.

Phaneuf is 28. He’s been in the league eight seasons, yet continues to make the same mistakes as when he arrived.

The longer Phaneuf stays on the ice, the greater the chance one of those egregious decisions leads to a loss. He played 31:14 on Wednesday – minutes worthy of a No. 1 defenceman – and should not.

Hence, Shoalts believes general manager Dave Nonis should put the Maple Leafs’ captain on the trade market “no later than the NHL draft at the end of June.”

And if you think Shoalts is overreacting, he isn’t alone in raising the possibility of moving Phaneuf.

Writes Tim Wharnsby of CBC.ca:

His latest mistake simply magnified the fact that, in his eighth year, this hard-hitting, smooth-skating defenceman continues to make the same mistakes he did as a raw rookie with the Calgary Flames in 2005.

The 28-year-old Phaneuf has one more season left on his $6.5-million-per-year contract before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis will have to make a decision on Phaneuf in the next several weeks because a lot of the blockbusters these days are made at the NHL draft.

Phaneuf isn’t the only big name on the Leafs’ roster who can become an unrestricted free agent after next season. Sniper Phil Kessel is in that boat, too.

At this point, it may be easier to see Kessel re-signing, given Nonis recently awarded a big contract extension to linemate Joffrey Lupul.

Related: Phaneuf takes responsibility for OT goal

Video: Rangers shut out red-hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins

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The New York Rangers are likely too far behind the Washington Capitals to take any legitimate run at the Atlantic Division down the stretch.

But winners now of four straight, the Rangers have opened up a bit of a gap between them and other Eastern Conference teams in the playoff race. New York scored a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners in six of their last seven games, on Wednesday.

In the process, they held a red-hot Sidney Crosby off the score sheet, which has been a difficult, sometimes impossible task for opposing teams since about the middle of December. He entered this game with a seven-game scoring streak.

(In fact, New York held No. 87 to without a shot on goal in the entire game.)

Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout.

Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers the lead in the first period, before Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast put the game away in the third.

Pittsburgh remains in the second Wild Card spot in the East. The Rangers now move three points clear of the rival Islanders for second in the Metropolitan.

Video: Wideman hearing ‘a tricky case’ as NHLPA hopes to get 20-game suspension reduced

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There is no certain timeline for when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman might rule on Dennis Wideman‘s appeal, according to a report from hockey insider Darren Dreger on NBCSN, as the Calgary Flames defenseman hopes to get his 20-game ban for hitting linesman Don Henderson reduced.

“Now, ultimately what they’re hoping from a Wideman perspective and the Players’ Association is that commissioner Gary Bettman will rule and he will reduce the number of games suspended down from 20,” said Dreger during a segment on NBCSN.

“Is he going to reduce it by three games? Five games seems a bit of a stretch. And when might he do that? There’s no timeline on this.”

Report: Coyotes shut down Vitale (concussion) for the season

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Joe Vitale will not play again this season.

The Arizona Coyotes have shut Vitale down for the remainder of the 2015-16 campaign due to “concussion-related issues,” according to a report from Sarah McLellan of azcentral sports on Wednesday.

Vitale, a 30-year-old veteran center, appeared in only one game for the Coyotes this season. That was back on Oct. 17, when he suffered a concussion and broken orbital bone in a fight with Kevan Miller of the Boston Bruins.

Sens announce Frattin, acquired in Phaneuf deal, will stick with AHL Marlies

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Matt Frattin was traded by the Leafs to Ottawa yesterday as part of the Dion Phaneuf blockbuster.

But for now, he’s staying in Toronto.

On Wednesday, Sens GM Bryan Murray announced that Frattin will remain with the Leafs’ AHL affiliate — the Toronto Marlies — on loan, but will be available for selection should Ottawa require his services down the road.

Frattin, 28, has spent all of this season with the Marlies, scoring nine goals and 22 points in 47 games. His last NHL appearance came during the ’14-15 campaign, with the Leafs.

Prior to that, the former North Dakota standout had spent time in Los Angeles and Columbus.