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