The first big-name deadline trade has been made.
While both the Ottawa Senators and Los Angeles Kings took the ice on Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes, respectively, behind closed doors their respected general managers were busy cooking up a deal.
There's no question that a Phaneuf-for-Gaborik trade would have blown the roof off of the NHL a decade ago, but with father time catching up to both, it's a little less significant this time around.
That being said, the deal has major implications for both and each team is better having made the trade than they were before.
Kings get their guy
It was no secret that the Kings approached the deadline with the hopes of giving a boost to their blue line. As The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun noted earlier in the day, the club was in pursuit of a No. 4 or No. 5 defenseman.
They were also looking to make a hockey deal and not necessarily to trade for a rental. Check and check.
Phaneuf can play in all situations, can eat up minutes, and can defend against the game's biggest names. For the Kings, there's not much to hate about that kind of player being slotted into the club's bottom pairings.
With the trade, the Kings were able to get Marian Gaborik off their books. With a cap hit of $4.875 million for the next three years, an inability to stay healthy long term, and decreased production, he was more of a liability with the club – who is starved for offense – than he was an asset.
As for the swap of Shore for Thompson, the Kings get a more veteran presence with Thompson who joins the club with nearly 600 games of NHL experience, compared to Shore, who at 25 years of age, has 221 games under his belt.
Shore is also set to become a restricted free agent, so dealing him avoids the potential of Rob Blake having to hand Shore a raise from his current $925,000 deal.
But while money is good and all, let's face it, the Kings are still eyeing the playoffs.
The club currently sits three points out of the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference, but should get a boost in the form of Jeff Carter – who's expected to return to the lineup soon.
After missing out in two of the last three seasons, the Kings are eager to get back into the postseason. Phaneuf gives them a push in that direction and with the deadline still two weeks away, the team has ample time to get another potential deal done.
Senators create valuable cap space
Whoever said Phaneuf’s contract was untradeable was severely mistaken.
For the second time since signing a monstrous seven-year, $49-million deal as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs back in 2013, Phaneuf has been dealt.
The Senators were able to get out from his $7-million cap hit – with three more years on his deal – even though they will still pay 25 percent of his contract.
In Gaborik, the Sens get a player who can produce offensively – albeit not nearly at the same clip as he once could – and someone who could serve as an extra veteran voice in a dressing room that looks to have dealt with some dysfunction this season.
Further, despite his cap hit of $4.875 million for the next three years, he is owed much less in actual salary: $4.575 million next season, $3.175 million in 2019-20, and $3.075 million in 2020-21.
Of course, there's always the potential to buyout Gaborik's contract to shore up even more money. But that's for Pierre Dorion to decide later.
Then there is Thompson's $1.65 million coming off the books, which helps. As for Shore, he enters as a pending restricted free agent next season, so the team could elect to not offer him a qualifying offer in the offseason, making him a UFA and thus freeing up more space.
All this shedding of money is important for one sole purpose: signing Erik Karlsson.
Karlsson will become an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of next season, but can be signed to an extension any time after July 1. It's quite clear that the reigning two-time Norris Trophy-winner will command at least $10 million per season, so the Senators will need to pinch every penny they have over the next little while if they are to get a deal done with their captain.
That's what makes what the Senators did on Tuesday that much more significant.
The Kings and Senators are two clubs clearly headed in different directions. The Kings are hoping to sneak into the playoffs, while the Senators have their eyes set on the future.
But whether it’s for a boost to their roster or some extra pocket cash, it’s quite clear the Phaneuf deal is exactly what each club needed.
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)
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