The Toronto Maple Leafs were expected to be active leading up to the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 29, and the first domino has already fallen weeks beforehand.
Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf (75 percent owned in Yahoo) was sent to the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday as part of a nine-player trade. Phaneuf, who ranks 22nd among fantasy D-men based on performance in standard categories this season, could make his Senators debut as early as Wednesday at the Detroit Red Wings, giving him potential instant eligibility in DraftKings daily fantasy contests.
The 30-year-old has logged more than 22 minutes per game this season, and led Maple Leafs defensemen in points (24), assists (21), penalty minutes (67) and shots on goal (116) prior to the trade. He was also second in power-play points (seven) behind Jake Gardiner (eight), and was tied for 18th League-wide at his position in both assists and SOG.
Phaneuf, who shoots left, joins top-ranked fantasy defenseman Erik Karlsson, who shoots right, as the Senators bolster their blue line in pursuit of a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With 28 games remaining, Ottawa sits four points behind the New York Islanders (with three more games played) for the final wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference. They are six points behind the Detroit Red Wings (with one more game played) for the first wild card in the East.
Video: TOR@PIT: Phaneuf beats Murray from the point for lead
Karlsson is tied for second in the NHL in scoring (59 points) behind Patrick Kane (76 points) of the Chicago Blackhawks, and is the only defenseman averaging greater than a point per game this season. His 82-game pace (88 points) is off the charts and would give him the most points by a defenseman in a single season since Nicklas Lidstrom (80 in 2005-06).
Phaneuf's potential exposure to Karlsson could be a boon for his already stable fantasy stock while also giving Ottawa more scoring depth on the blue line. After Karlsson, the Senators' next leading scorer on 'D' is Cody Ceci (16 points). The rest of their defensemen have fewer than 10 points apiece. From a possession standpoint, Phaneuf was second among Maple Leafs defensemen (minimum 40 games played) behind Gardiner (plus-82) in Shot Attempts (plus-43) this season. He should also provide the Senators, fourth-worst in Shot Attempts percentage, with a lift in that regard.
In fantasy terms, Phaneuf's bread and butter has always been his peripheral category production. This season has been no exception with Phaneuf ranking fourth among defensemen in minor penalties per 60 minutes. Since 2010-11, Phaneuf has the most PIMs (564) among all defensemen. He averages 2.4 hits per game this season (T-25th among 'D') and has already secured his sixth straight 100-hit season (120 in 51 games). For DraftKings purposes, Phaneuf has finished with 100 or more blocked shots in each of his past four full seasons and is on pace for 96 if he remains healthy.
If Phaneuf plays with Karlsson at even strength and/or on the power play, his offensive numbers could improve, making him well worth a trade proposal if you're looking to bolster your fantasy blue line for the stretch run. Phaneuf's shooting rate has dipped in the past two seasons (2.2 percent in 2014-15; 2.6 in 2015-16) compared to his career average (5.7) during the Maple Leafs' decline, so don't be surprised to see positive regression with this change of scenery.