Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 5/12/14
Has the Battle of Ontario eroded into a race to see which of the combatants — the Senators and Maple Leafs — can deal away their captain first? That’s the $49-million question involving Dion Phaneuf and Jason Spezza. Both Phaneuf and Spezza are on deals worth $49 million US over seven years. The difference: While 2014-15 is the final season of Spezza’s contract, it is the first year for Phaneuf, whose extension was announced while the Leafs were in Michigan prepping for the Jan. 1 Winter Classic at the Big House against the Red Wings. In other words, a “win-now” team might be willing to absorb Spezza’s salary for one season in its effort to make a deep Stanley Cup run next spring. In the process, there would be plenty of time to negotiate an extension if his potential new team was so inclined. In terms of Phaneuf, any intrigued teams would be saddled with a long-term contract that runs into the next decade. Having said that, it should not come as a surprise that the Leafs would be kicking tires around the league to gauge potential interest in the veteran defenceman. Indeed, MLSE president Tim Leiweke, who last month brought in Hall of Famer Brendan Shanahan to serve as team president, is not a patient man. “No one is untradeable,” Leiweke said during a recent radio interview, adding that Shanahan and GM Dave Nonis have the final say on roster decisions. Having fielded calls on Phaneuf during the season, the Leafs feel there is a market for the captain, making the possibiliy of a deal far moe realistic. Phaneuf’s leadership — or lack thereof — was heavily scrutinized during the Leafs late-season collapse. It is an aspect of the team that Shanahan is believed to be concerned about as he looks for ways to change the team, both in terms of culture and in won-lost record. As such, the tweet from Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos on Sunday should not come as a surprise.
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