Under Pressure: Dion Phaneuf


This is part of Ottawa Senators day at PHT…

After spending seven years in Toronto where he was expected to be the No. 1 defenseman and captain of one of the NHL’s most iconic franchises, Dion Phaneuf is no stranger to facing a little bit of pressure.

The pressure and scrutiny he is going to face this season (and in future seasons) in Ottawa will not be quite what it was in Toronto, but there is still going to be an expectation for him to be a big contributor on the blue line. He is still a big name in hockey, still carries a massive contract (he is the second highest paid player on the team, behind only Bobby Ryan) and the team needs somebody else on the blue line to step up and provide big minutes to complement two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson.

It is just a question of how good Phaneuf can still be, how much of an impact he can still make, and whether or not it will be worth the financial commitment the Senators took on when they acquired him in last season’s in-season blockbuster.

At 31 it should be obvious that he is not going to be the same player he was earlier in his career when he was regularly scoring double-digit goals and a threat to put 50 or 60 total points on the board.

But just because he started to slow down a bit over the past two years and maybe wasn’t quite up to being the No. 1 defenseman Toronto needed him to be doesn’t mean that he suddenly has zero value as a player. In Ottawa, he is not going to have to be the top guy and can perhaps settle into the No. 2 or 3 role he is perhaps better suited for at this point in his career.

The problem with that is it means the Senators will have to commit $7 million in cap space per year through 2021 for a player that is not going to be (or expected to be) a No. 1 defenseman. That price tag comes with a lot of expectations on any team, but it is especially true for a team like Ottawa. Even though salary cap space itself isn’t an issue, the Senators are a team that tends to operate well below the cap.

That means there is still a pretty big opportunity cost within that budget to have that much money going to a player like Phaneuf when the team is operating under its own cap.

If he does not deliver, even as more of a complimentary player than the franchise building block he was expected to be in Toronto, that contract could be a pretty significant issue in future seasons when it comes to building around what the team has in place.


Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

caufield surgery
David Kirouac/USA TODAY Sports

MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

matty beniers
Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports

SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.