Dion Phaneuf (Jonathan Kozub / NHLI via Getty Images)
When the trade deadline was nearing, the Detroit Red Wings were said to be interested in landing defenseman Dion Phaneuf from the Toronto Maple Leafs. As the regular season is nearing a close, rumors are surfacing once again that Phaneuf will be a target for Detroit in the off-season. Meanwhile, the Columbus Blue Jackets will likely target defensive depth during free agency.
Leading up to the recent NHL trade deadline, the biggest rumor making the rounds claimed the Detroit Red Wings were interested in Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf. While trade talks between the two clubs ultimately fell through, speculation persists suggesting the Wings could revisit their interest in the 29-year-old Phaneuf during the off-season.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman notes Red Wings director of pro scouting Mark Howe took in a recent game between the Leafs and Buffalo Sabres. As the Wings completed their respective season series with both clubs weeks ago, Friedman facetiously wondered which player Howe was scouting.
If the Wings remain keen to land Phaneuf, they must ensure not to use up too much cap space for future use. They currently have over $53 million invested in their 2015-16 cap payroll, but Friedman points out they have several key players to re-sign. Notables include Gustav Nyquist and Brendan Smith this summer, plus Justin Abdelkader, Danny DeKeyser, Riley Sheahan, Darren Helm and Petr Mrazek in 2016.
Phaneuf has another six seasons at $7-million annually remaining on his contract. If the Wings want him, they must convince the Leafs to pick up part of his salary or accept a toxic contract in return like center Stephen Weiss, who has three years at $4.9-million per season left on his deal.
BLUE JACKETS WANT TO BOLSTER BLUELINE
The Columbus Blue Jackets won't have fond memories of 2014-15. Having reached the playoffs last year for only the second time in franchise history, the Jackets followed up by finishing well out of contention this season.
Injuries were largely to blame. As of Apr. 7, Man Games Lost indicates the Jackets led the league in man games lost to injury with 499. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, defensmen Fedor Tyutin and Ryan Murray along with forwards Brandon Dubinsky, Boone Jenner, Artem Anisimov, Mark Letestu and Matt Calvert were among the notables to miss considerable time.
While the Jackets front office expressed disappointment in how the season unfolded, they don't intend on a major roster shakeup this summer. ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reports team president John Davidson said management will try to improve the lineup, “but we're not going to tear it down to improve it.”
Prior to Davidson's comments, Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said he'd like to add more depth to his blueline. Given the amount of players the Jackets have under contract next season and with the prospects within their system, Kekalainen said he wants to ensure his club has enough defensive depth going forward.
With over $61 million already invested in cap payroll for 2015-16 and all his core players under contract, Kekalainen has some room to add an experienced and affordable blueliner via free agency. St. Louis' Zbynek Michalek and Barret Jackman, Detroit's Marek Zidlicky, Chicago's Johnny Oduya, Montreal's Jeff Petry and perhaps Nashville's Cody Franson could be among the options.