Nate Thompson

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Phaneuf, Senators react to bizarre night and rare mid-game trade

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PITTSBURGH — On the ice and on the scoreboard it was just another night at the office for the 2017-18 Ottawa Senators as they were on the wrong end of a 6-3 decision in Pittsburgh.

It was what was happening off the ice during their latest loss that made things a little more bizarre and, quite honestly, a little more interesting. That was when the Senators were in the process of completing the rare mid-game trade by sending defenseman Dion Phaneuf and forward Nate Thompson to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for forwards Marian Gaborik and Nick Shore.

From an Ottawa perspective a lot of it was about moving salary, while also signaling the beginning of what will likely be a pre-deadline firesale in the middle of what has been a bitterly disappointing season that comes on the heels of last year’s shocking run to the Eastern Conference Final.

[Trade: Senators send Dion Phaneuf to the Kings]

It was easy to tell something was up in the second period when Phaneuf suddenly stopped getting ice time and word started to leak out that something was up. Things really got bizarre when Phil Kessel, one of Phaneuf’s long-time teammates with the Toronto Maple Leafs, told Penguins television analyst Bob Errey (who was positioned between the benches for the game) that Phaneuf was on his way to Los Angeles during the game.

After the game Phaneuf and the Senators all reacted to the trade.

“I want to thank the Ottawa Senators organization for my time with them,” Phaneuf said after the game. “That is first and foremost, I have nothing but great things to say about the city of Ottawa, about the organization, about my time here. It’s disappointing when you do get moved, but with saying that I am very excited about where I am going, to the team I am going to, and about being a Los Angeles King. I am honored to be going there, I am excited about the team they have, where they are in the standings, I am going to go there and do the best I can to help their team.”

Phaneuf joined the Senators in the middle of the 2015-16 season in a trade with the Maple Leafs and spent parts of three seasons with the team, including their playoff run a year ago.

“I will always remember the run we went on,” said Phaneuf. “As a player that is what you play for. You want to have that success, you want to go on those runs. Now I am going to a team that has won, to a team that has had a lot of success. I am very, very excited to be going where I am going. It is a lot to take in right now, standing here there are a lot of different emotions, but I am excited about where I am going. It is an exciting time for me to think about being a Los Angeles King.”

Phaneuf said he was not told immediately that a trade was close to being completed, but that he knew something was going on when he stopped getting ice time.

He said he was finally told between the second and third periods.

“Guys were kind of wondering why he wasn’t playing in the second period so we kind of knew something was up,” said Senators forward Mark Stone. “Unfortunately when your team struggles you lose teammates and changes get made. It’s obviously a tough day for a lot of the guys in this room. I had a real close relationship with Dion.”

Senators coach Guy Boucher said he did not address the trade in the locker room and instead tried to the focus on the task at hand — trying to get a win.

“Everybody knew what was happening, there was no need to address it,” said Boucher. “It’s a business, it’s a tough part of the business. We’re talking about two players I really enjoyed having around, two character people that brought a lot of positive things to us, two players that I really respect. Two guys I have been far in the playoffs with, [Thompson] with Tampa going to the Conference Final there, then same with Dion last year. You develop relationships with people. I really wish those individuals the very, very best. They are tremendous individuals that deserve the best. I thank them for everything they have done, they were tremendous to work with.”

Phaneuf’s teammates seemed to share that sentiment.

“It’s an unfortunate part of the business,” said Senators captain Erik Karlsson, whose future with the team is also in question as the team continues to lose and his long-term contract situation looms.

“He’s a good friend of mine, a good friend of everyone on this team and someone that did really well for us. He is someone we would have liked to have kept if the circumstances would have been different. That is the unfortunate and sad part of the situation we are in, things like this are going to happen.”

Karlsson also talked about how much Phaneuf helped him in his brief time with the team.

“He was great for me coming here from Toronto,” Karlsson said. “He helped me out a lot, not only on the ice but stuff around the locker room, with the guys, with the media. He took a load off my back and I am going to miss that, most importantly I am going to miss him as a friend.”

If there is anyone that can relate to what Phaneuf’s night was like it would have to be Senators forward Matt Duchene.

Duchene’s time with the Colorado Avalanche came to an end earlier this season when he was traded early in the first period of a game.

“I don’t know how much time was left,” said Duchene when asked when he found out about the trade. “I found out right before we went out for the third. It’s very strange. I know what it’s like obviously, for me it was maybe a little crazier, getting trade a minute into the game then I kind of sat there for a while. I know for him it is probably a crazy whirlwind right now but they [Phaneuf and Thompson] are going to help Los Angeles a lot.”

What makes the night even more interesting for Phaneuf is that he doesn’t even have to go anywhere to meet his new team.

The Kings, after losing 7-3 to the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night, are on their way to Pittsburgh for a game on Thursday night where Phaneuf will join them.

“It is a different situation,” said Phaneuf. “I am not flying anywhere right now to meet them. My gear is staying here, and I am too.”

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Trade: Senators send Dion Phaneuf to Kings

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Dion Phaneuf‘s contract isn’t pretty, but after seeing it move twice in trades already, you can’t say that it’s impossible to trade.

The Ottawa Senators proved that after the Toronto Maple Leafs before them,* sending the defenseman and (most) of his enormous contract to the Los Angeles Kings in a startling deal that might really kick off the looming trade deadline.

* – Not to mention the Calgary Flames, although that was on a previous deal.

Update: The Kings made the trade official. GM Rob Blake had this to say about Phaneuf:

“Dion brings to our club a great deal of experience and leadership. He also plays with a physical edge which complements our line-up well. Nate has a good reputation of being a high-energy player on the ice. Both guys are also high character guys,” Blake said.

TSN’s Darren Dreger was the first to report the terms with others reporting the same, while the deal hasn’t been confirmed by the teams yet:

Kings get: Phaneuf (at that 25-percent discount) and Nate Thompson. This means Phaneuf will carry a $5.25 million cap hit for L.A. through 2020-21.

Senators receive: Marian Gaborik and Nick Shore.

Why?

The Senators’ perspective is simple: they save money. While Gaborik carries a $4.875 million cap hit through 2020-21, his actual salary really plummets starting next season. Shore’s contract expires while Thompson is owed $1.65M in 2018-19.

It’s pretty easy to see the Senators’ side of this, especially when you consider their budgetary concerns.

The Kings’ perspective is a little more surprising, at least since still-fairly-new GM Rob Blake seemed to be changing some of the organization’s habits. Going for a big name with a big contract feels a lot like some of the hit-or-miss moves from former GM Dean Lombardi’s latter years, like trading for Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla. (Not to mention Vincent Lecavalier.)

Looking at Phaneuf’s stats from a variety of perspectives, you generally get “middling” if you’re optimistic and “flat-out bad” the deeper you dig. Via this handy tool from CJ Turtoro using Corey Sznajder’s data, you can see that Phaneuf doesn’t really compare all that favorably to Derek Forbort, a Kings defenseman they’d likely hope to upgrade on:

Perhaps the Kings believe that Phaneuf can turn things around with a change of scenery?

The Kings are battling for a playoff spot, and with an aging core, they’re clearly trying to make the most of this sometimes-promising season. Acquiring Phaneuf is quite a gamble, though.

Side note: Both teams lost their games on Tuesday. The Senators fell 6-3 to the Penguins while the Hurricanes handed the Kings a 7-3 drubbing.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

New addition Thompson thinks Senators are ‘ready to win’

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Even after reaching Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016-17 there is still probably some skepticism as to how good the Ottawa Senators will be this upcoming season and whether or not they can repeat that success.

They didn’t do much to add to that roster over the summer outside of the addition of gritty forward Nate Thompson on a two-year contract from the Anaheim Ducks.

Thompson is excited about the opportunity to join the Senators and believes the success of the team last season was not a fluke.

“This team now is ready to win,” he told Ken Warren of the Ottawa Sun this past week. “I don’t think this was a Cinderella team, it was the real deal. They have a pretty good window to win games and hopefully do something even more special.”

It’s going to probably be a little more difficult this season given some of the improvements that have been made by teams around them (Tampa Bay and Toronto should be better than they were a year ago; Montreal and Boston will still be fierce contenders as well) and the fact the Senators themselves might see a bit of a regression in the standings if their overall play doesn’t change much. Keep in mind, for all of the success they had in the playoffs this was still a team that gave up more goals than it scored during the regular season. That is not typically a recipe for long-term success.

Thompson, who will turn 33 at the start of the season, will be relied on primarily to fill a bottom-six role and perhaps help in the faceoff circle. He is coming off of a 2016-17 season in Anaheim that saw him be limited to just 30 games, scoring one goal and adding one assist before recording six points (two goals, four assists) in the playoffs for the Ducks on their run to the Western Conference Finals. He spent the past three seasons playing for the Ducks and also has experience playing for Senators coach Guy Boucher during their time together in Tampa Bay.

PHT’s 2017 free agent frenzy tracker

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Welcome to Thunderdome!

Come embrace the madness with us. Throughout the weekend, we’ll be keeping tabs on all the UFA signings across the NHL, so check back regularly for all the biggest signings, trades and other acquisitions.

July 2

Patrick Marleau signs in Toronto: three years, $18.75 million (link)

— Steve Oleksy signs in Anaheim: two years (link)

Evgeny Kuznetsov re-signs in Washington: eight years, $62.4 million (link)

July 1

Justin Schultz re-signs with Pittsburgh: three years, $16.5 million (link)

— Tom Sestito, Frank Corrado, Casey DeSmith, Chris Summers, Jarred Tinordi, Zach Trotman, and Greg McKegg also signed with Pittsburgh.

Joe Thornton re-signs in San Jose: one year (link)

Chris Kunitz signs in Tampa Bay: one year, $2 million (link)

Darcy Kuemper signs with Los Angeles: one year, $650K (link)

Radim Vrbata signs in Florida: one year, $2.5 million (link)

Kevin Shattenkirk signs with New York Rangers: four years, $26.6 million (link)

— Brian Strait signed a one-year, two-way deal with New Jersey. Brian Gibbons and Bracken Kearns also signed two-way contracts.

— Zac Rinaldo signs a one-year, two-way deal with Arizona. Also signing with Coyotes: Andrew Campbell, Joel Hanley, and Michael Sislo.

— Ryan Stanton signs in Edmonton: two years, $1.4 million

— Mike McKenna signs in Dallas: one year, $650,000

— Paul Carey signs with New York Rangers: one year, $650,000

— Buddy Robinson signs in Winnipeg: one year, $650,000

Dominic Moore signs in Toronto: one year, $1 million

Patrik Nemeth re-signs in Dallas: one year, $945,000

Kyle Quincey signs in Minnesota: one year, $1.25 million

Nick Cousins re-signs in Arizona: two years, $2 million

— Cal Petersen signs in Los Angeles: two year, $1.85 million (link)

— Kyle Rau signs in Minnesota: one year, $700,000

— Tyler Randell signs in Ottawa: one year, $700,000

— Niklas Svedberg signs in Minnesota: one year, $700,000

— Kenny Agostino signs in Boston: one year, $875,000

— Anthony Peluso signs in Washington: one year, $650,000

— Ty Rattie signs in Edmonton: one year, $700,000

— Anders Lindback signs in Nashville: one year, $650,000

— Matt O’Connor signs in Nashville: one year, $650,000

— Dennis Robertson re-signs in Carolina: one year, $650,000

Luke Witkowski signs in Detroit: one year, $750,000

Jean-Francois Berube signs in Chicago: two years, $1.5 million

— Jordan Osterle signs in Chicago: two years, $1.3 million

— Derek Grant signs in Anaheim: one year, $650,000

— Michael Sgarbossa signs in Winnipeg: one year, $650,000

Anton Rodin re-signs in Vancouver: one year, $700,000

Cam Fowler re-signs in Anaheim: eight years, $52 million (link)

Jeremy Smith signs in Carolina: one year, $750,000

Scott Hartnell signs in Nashville: one year, $1 million (link)

— Seth Griffith signs in Buffalo: one year, $650,000

— Evgeny Dadonov signs in Florida: three years, $12 million (link)

— Dan Girardi signs in Tampa Bay: two years, $6 million (link)

— Cal O’Reilly signs in Minnesota: two years, $1.4 million

— Landon Ferraro signs in Minnesota: two years, $1.4 million

Ron Hainsey signs in Toronto: two years, $6 million (link)

Ryan Miller signs in Anaheim: two years, $4 million (link)

Christian Folin signs in Los Angeles: one year, $850,000

— Patrick Wiercioch signs in Vancouver: one year, $650,000

Mike Cammalleri signs in Los Angeles: one year, $1 million (link)

Adam Clendening signs in Arizona: one year, $775,000

Ryan Murphy signs in Minnesota: one year, $700,000

Chris Thorburn signs in St. Louis: two years, $1.8 million

Oskar Sundqvist re-signs in St. Louis: one year, $675,000

— Beau Bennett signs in St. Louis: one year, $650,000

— Antti Niemi signs in Pittsburgh: one year, $700,000

Paul Postma signs in Boston: one year, $725,000

Josh Jooris signs in Carolina: one year, $775,000

Martin Jones re-signs in San Jose: six years, $34.5 million (link)

Marc-Edouard Vlasic re-signs in San Jose: eight years, $56 million (link)

Justin Williams signs in Carolina: two years, $9 million (link)

Martin Hanzal signs in Dallas: three years, $14.25 million (link)

Tyler Pitlick signs in Dallas: three years, $3 million

Jonathan Bernier signs in Colorado: one year, $2.75 million (link)

Chad Johnson signs in Buffalo: one year, $1.25 million (link)

— Brian Elliott signs in Philly: two years, $5.5 million (link)

Steve Mason signs in Winnipeg: two years, $8.2 million (link)

— Alexander Burmistrov signs in Vancouver: one year, $900,000 (link)

Anders Nilsson signs in Vancouver: two years, $5 million (link)

Michael Del Zotto signs in Vancouver: two years, $6 million (link)

Sam Gagner signs in Vancouver: three years, $9.45 million (link)

Dmitry Kulikov signs in Winnipeg: three years, $13 million (link)

Trevor Daley signs in Detroit: three years, $9.5 million (link)

Patrick Sharp signs in Chicago: one year, $1 million (link)

Matt Hunwick signs in Pittsburgh: three years, $6.75 million (link)

Nick Bonino signs in Nashville: four years, $16.1 million (link)

Benoit Pouliot signs in Buffalo: one year, $1.15 million

Brian Boyle signs in New Jersey: two years, $5.1 million (link)

Alex Petrovic re-signs in Florida: one year, $1.8 million (link)

Nate Thompson signs in Ottawa: two year, $3.3 million (link)

Ondrej Pavelec signs with New York Rangers: one year, $1.3 million (link)

— Garrett Wilson re-signs in Pittsburgh: two years, $1.3 million

— Garret Sparks re-signs in Toronto: two years, $1.35 million (link)

Curtis McElhinney re-signs in Toronto: two years, $1.7 million (link)

Karl Alzner signs in Montreal: five years, $23.125 million (link)

Previous deals of note

Michael Stone re-signs in Calgary: three years, $10.5 million (link)

Dmitry Orlov re-signs in Washington: six years, $30.6 million (link)

Jordan Weal re-signs in Philly: two years, $3.5 million (link)

Kris Versteeg re-signs in Calgary: one year, $1.75 million (link)

Keith Kinkaid re-signs in New Jersey: two years, $2.5 million (link)

Magnus Paajarvi re-signs in St. Louis: one year, $800,000 (link)

Chandler Stephenson re-signs in Washington: two years, $1.3 million (link)

— Dylan McIlrath re-signs in Detroit: two years, $1.3 million (link)

— Brian Lashoff re-signs in Detroit: two years, $1.3 million (link)

Brock McGinn re-signs in Carolina: two years, $1.775 million (link)

Sven Andrighetto re-signs in Colorado: two years, $2.8 million (link)

— Cory Conacher re-signs in Tampa Bay: two years, $1.3 million (link)

Brendan Smith re-signs with New York Rangers: four years, $17.4 million (link)

Mike Condon re-signs in Ottawa: three years, $7.2 million (link)

— Jacob De La Rose re-signs in Montreal: one year, $725,000 (link)

— Pheonix Copley re-signs in Washington: two years, $1.3 million (link)

Noel Acciari re-signs in Boston: two year, $1.45 million (link)

Jordan Schroeder re-signs in Columbus: two years, $1.3 million (link)

Eric Gryba re-signs in Edmonton: two years, $1.8 million (link)

— Max McCormick re-signs in Ottawa: two years, $1.3 million (link)

Brett Connolly re-signs in Washington: two years, $3 million (link)

Tomas Jurco re-signs in Chicago: one year, $850,000 (link)

Anton Forsberg re-signs in Chicago: two years, $1.5 million (link)

Tom Pyatt re-signs in Ottawa: two years, $2.2 million (link)

Zack Kassian re-signs in Edmonton: three years, $5.85 million (link)

Esa Lindell re-signs in Dallas: two years, $4.4 million (link)

Yanni Gourde re-signs in Tampa Bay: two years, $2 million (link)

Andrej Sustr re-signs in Tampa Bay: one year, $1.95 million (link)

Derek Ryan re-signs in Carolina: one year, $1.425 million (link)

Korbinian Holzer re-signs in Anaheim: two years, $1.8 million (link)

Andy Andreoff re-signs in L.A.: two years, $1.355 million (link)

Reunited and deals are good: Williams, Sharp, Hartnell return via free agency

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Usually, when it comes to the first day of free agency, the patterns tend to revolve around deals teams will eventually regret. On July 1, 2017, there was instead the best kind of nostalgia: reuniting successful players and the cities they once called “home.”

Remarkably, in just about every case, the contracts were solid-to-huge steals for those old teams. Let’s look at some of the biggest examples.

Come back … for $1 million

Even if skills diminished, it’s remarkable that Patrick Sharp returned to the Chicago Blackhawks, Scott Hartnell made his long-waited comeback for the Nashville Predators, and Michael Cammalleri reacquainted with the Los Angeles Kings, all on the same day.

And all three of those deals were low-risk with potentially significant rewards: they all signed for one year and $1 million.

The Blackhawks seemed to “bring the band back together” in the most obvious ways this summer, as they also regained Brandon Saad in that surprising trade that sent Artemi Panarin away. Maybe Panarin will be back in the Windy City in the future, too, then?

Finally getting paid, kind of

If you want to chart the history of a – relatively – underpaid forward, look no further than Justin Williams.

Even at his advanced age, a two-year, $9 million deal to return to the first team he won a Stanley Cup with (the Carolina Hurricanes) is a pretty sweet bargain.

It’s remarkable that a renowned two-way player who earned the nickname “Mr. Game 7” took until 2017 to pass the $4 million per season mark, as this new deal carries a cap hit of $4.5M per season. Previously, the highest cap hit he carried was $3.825M; he actually took a discount to join the Washington Capitals.

That comfort level and familiarity definitely factored into Williams’ decision.

Personal reasons

There were other signings that might not be the purest reunions, yet they still fit with the growing theme of the day.

Kevin Shattenkirk never played for the New York Rangers, but it’s believed that he left money (and possibly years) on the table to live the dream. He’s a “New Yorker at heart,” after all.

Beyond Shattenkirk, Nate Thompson reunites with former Lightning head coach Guy Boucher. There’s an anecdote that Thompson adhered to Boucher’s advice so well that other Bolts teammates ribbed him by calling him “Nate Boucher.” One figures that played a big role in bringing Thompson to the Ottawa Senators.

Chad Johnson didn’t have a hallowed run with the Sabres, yet he’ll be a welcome backup in Buffalo once more. Anders Lindback is back in the Predators’ fold after netting the franchise some nice picks from the Lightning a few years back, though he’d likely need some luck to get reps with Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros ahead of him.

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In just about every case, these reunions represented rare mutual benefits: teams get a familiar player back at a reasonable price. Said players may have already made big money elsewhere (or by getting bought out), and now they get to return to places they might not have ever wanted to leave.

Everyone wins, at least until teams start accruing W’s and L’s.

Click here for the full list of free agent moves. Also, check out who’s left (and thus could also make for more reunions).

Now, without further adieu, the official song of this free agency.