Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf

What does the future hold for Phaneuf and Kessel?


Just because the contract situations of Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel aren’t presently on the “front-burner” of Toronto general manager Dave Nonis doesn’t mean Maple Leafs fans aren’t thinking about them.

Both Phaneuf, the captain, and Kessel, the team’s top scorer, can become unrestricted free agents at the end of 2013-14, at which point both would be in line for big pay days.

It may be that both end up re-signing in Toronto. Per CapGeek, the Leafs only have 10 players under contract for 2014-15 for a total cap payroll of just over $31 million. (That leaves around $33 million in cap space.)

However, if there’s one that’s more likely to stay long-term than the other, most feel it’s Kessel. Not only is the 25-year-old one of the premier snipers in the NHL, Nonis also just gave a big contract extension to Tyler Bozak, Kessel’s center and good friend.

Kessel, not a big talker at his most chatty, didn’t share much when asked recently about his contract situation.

“I haven’t even thought about it yet,” he said. “I’ve still got another year here and we’ll see what happens.”

But his good buddy Bozak is confident he’ll be back.

“He’s been the leader of our team on the ice and hopefully he can stay there for as long as he can and I know he enjoys it there; I know it’s his favourite place to be,” Bozak said last month, per Sportsnet. “I think if the money’s right he’s gonna stay for sure.”

As for Phaneuf, well, if the amount of trade speculation is any indication, there’s reason to believe he could be on his way out.

Not that the 28-year-old is coming off a poor season. In fact, he had 28 points in 48 games while averaging 25:11 of ice time per game. But the occasional (or frequent, depending who you ask) defensive gaffe — like the one in Game 4 of the Leafs’ first-round series versus Boston — has the tendency to bring the knives out in a big way.

There’s also Toronto’s sizable crop of young d-men to consider. With Carl Gunnarsson (26 years old), Jake Gardiner (23), Cody Franson (25), and Morgan Rielly (19) in the mix, perhaps the Leafs would be better served trading Phaneuf and spending the money they’d save elsewhere.

That’s all for Nonis to decide. And he’s got plenty of time to make the decision. It could be this all plays out like it did in Anaheim this past season when Cory Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, two big pending UFAs, didn’t sign extensions with the Ducks until March, only weeks before the trade deadline.

More Leafs day on PHT:

Leafs need Kadri to take another step

Bozak, Clarkson contracts were big gambles for Nonis

Reimer vs Bernier — Who ya got?

Marner’s brilliant passing powers uplifting night for Leafs

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 15:  Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates scoring his 1st NHL goal against the Boston Bruins during an NHL game on October 15, 2016 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Leafs defeated the Bruins 4-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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For a while, the story of the Florida Panthers – Toronto Maple Leafs game would be the remarkable march of Jonathan Marchessault.

As great as his story remains (he gave Florida 1-0 and 2-1 leads), those pesky young Maple Leafs keep stealing the headlines.

In tonight’s case, it was Mitch Marner who was raising eyebrows as he assisted on all three of Toronto’s goals in a 3-2 victory.

His third assist was just sublime:

After the game, Tyler Bozak pondered the two goals Marner helped him score and deemed the youngster “an elite player,” according to the Globe & Mail’s James Mirtle.

Considering the growing discomfort regarding Frederik Andersen‘s play, this tweet should help to make Maple Leafs fans smile:

Ehhhhh, Marner might deserve that first star, but the gesture means almost as much as the win.

Also, it might help Andersen feel a little better after this happened:

Either way, this could be the sort of win that Toronto might build upon.

Devan Dubnyk pushes shutout streak to two games

ST PAUL, MN - OCTOBER 15: Devan Dubnyk #40 of the Minnesota Wild defends the net against Winnipeg Jets during the game on October 15, 2016 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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Devan Dubnyk already showed signs of having a hot start to 2016-17, but Thursday made that point abundantly clear.

For the second straight game, Dubnyk generated a shutout, with the Minnesota Wild beating the Buffalo Sabres 4-0 in this instance.

It’s not as if Dubnyk is just leisurely turning aside the occasional chance, either; he made 38 saves to blank Buffalo and needed to stop 65 shots on goal considering the 27 he turned aside in a 5-0 win vs. Boston.

Ryan Suter said that Dubnyk bailed his teammates out during the second period, as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo reports.

He’s now allowed just 10 goals in six games so far in 2016-17, with Taylor Hall‘s overtime-winner being the last shot to beat him. That came on Sunday:

More often than not, Dubnyk’s been making those saves so far in this young season.

Video: Another way Patrik Laine evokes Alex Ovechkin

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There are plenty of differences between Alex Ovechkin and Patrik Laine, including obvious things like one being from Russia and the other from Finland.

Still, there are moments when Laine inspires comparisons to his idol, even this early in his rookie season.

Thursday presented one of those moments. It wasn’t just that Laine fired a 3-0 goal home for the Winnipeg Jets against the Dallas Stars with such moxie; it was also that he showed some swagger with a celebration afterward.

This GIF captures the moment brilliantly, while you can also watch the goal in video form.

Sure, there will be some grumbles from the “act like you’ve been here before” crowd, but this is brilliant stuff for the rest of us.

Video: Want another booming hip check? Sean Couturier obliges

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 25:  Sean Couturier #14 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on against the Buffalo Sabres at Wells Fargo Center on October 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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Early this season, Dmitry Orlov delighted onlookers and angered Matt Duchene with a mind-blowing, throwback hip check. People really seemed to enjoy it.

While you’d struggle to top that hit, Philadelphia Flyers forward Sean Couturier must have sensed the void in checks that almost seem to flip opponents, doing so against Anthony Duclair during Thursday’s contest.

Rate this as you will:

Want another look at the Orlov one for comparison’s sake or to chuckle in disbelief? Why not: