After spending parts of six season with the Toronto Maple Leafs, captain Dion Phaneuf knows change is coming.
Toronto concluded the 2014-15 campaign 30-44-8 good for 27th overall.
Phaneuf along with a handful of core players may have played their final game in a Leafs’ sweater in Saturday night’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens.
“That crossed my mind,” said Phaneuf, who recorded his 400th NHL point in the loss. “It started to sink in when I was on the way to the rink and more and more before the game.”
The 30-year-old has appeared in 374 regular season games with the Leafs registering 172 points, 531 penalty minutes and a minus-26 rating while averaging 24:41 in ice time.
“It’s tough when you finish the season. You know there’s going to be change,” said Phaneuf. “You look at how we played, where we were coming into these last few games, it’s not a spot you want to be in as a player or as a team. It’s a tough game to play when you’re that far out.”
Goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who is currently considering an offer to join Team Canada at the upcoming World Hockey Championship in the Czech Republic, sensed a different vibe in the room Saturday.
“You could feel it before the game, I think,” said Bernier, a pending restricted free agent. “Guys were kind of upset and nervous at the same time. It (was) the last time we’re going to play as a group.”
Phaneuf, who has been linked to the Detroit Red Wings, has a $7 million annual cap hit through 2020-21.
“I’ve been here a while, made lots of good friends,” he said. “It’s tough. When the season ends, it’s tough.”