Report: Phaneuf extension might be imminent

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In the lead up to the 2013-14 campaign, the big question surrounding the Toronto Maple Leafs’ future was the fate of star forward Phil Kessel and captain Dion Phaneuf. Both have played key roles on the team and were scheduled to become unrestricted free agents this summer.

Kessel wasted no time killing the speculation about him by inking an eight-year, $64 million extension on Oct. 1. Now, Phaneuf might follow suit by signing a new contract before the end of the year, according to CBC’s Elliotte Friedman.

It remains to be seen what the terms will be, if the deal gets done at all, but TSN’s Darren Dreger suggested in October that the 28-year-old defenseman will not settle for less than $6.5 million annually. In other words, he won’t accept less than the average annual value of his expiring six-year, $39 million contract.

Phaneuf led the Maple Leafs in total ice time in each of the previous two campaigns and barring an injury he will almost certainly do so again this season. He’s a physical blueliner that also can make significant contributions offensively, although he’s producing below his normal pace with 13 points in 37 contests going into the Christmas break.

Toronto has about $43.1 million in cap space committed to 12 players for the 2014-15 campaign, according to Cap Geek, which puts them in a comfortable position when it comes to handling Phaneuf a big contract.