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Maple Leafs praise departed captain Phaneuf

Defenseman traded to Senators termed mentor, 'real good man'

by Aaron Vickers / Correspondent

Lou Lamoriello - February 9, 2016

Lou Lamoriello regarding Tuesday's trade with Ottawa

Maple Leafs General Manager Lou Lamoriello speaks with members of the media regarding Tuesday's trade with Ottawa

  • 11:42 •

CALGARY -- Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri didn't immediately know why his phone was being bombarded with messages Tuesday morning.

He didn't expect it to be because the Maple Leafs sent captain Dion Phaneuf to the Ottawa Senators as part of a blockbuster nine-player trade.

"I was surprised. I didn't even know anything was in the works," Kadri said. "I just woke up and my phone exploded with messages from people. Obviously it was hard to swallow. He's a guy that kind of mentored me and helped me with my development since I was 18 years old. It's tough to see a guy like that go. At the same time, it's a business and I think it's going to be good for his future."

Phaneuf was traded Tuesday with forwards Matt Frattin, Casey Bailey and Ryan Rupert, and defenseman Cody Donaghey, to the Senators for defenseman Jared Cowen, forwards Milan Michalek, Colin Greening and Tobias Lindberg, and Ottawa's second-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft.

"I think he was a little upset, a little shocked," Kadri said. "I don't think he necessarily really wanted to go either. He loved Toronto. He loved the guys in the room. He loved the city of Toronto and everything about it. It's a good opportunity for them. I think Ottawa is going to have a shot to make the playoffs this year and Dion's going to be a big part of that. Off the ice, in terms of leadership, I think he's one of the best, if you were to ask me. I think that's going to be good for them."

Phaneuf has a $7 million salary cap charge remaining through the 2020-21 season.

The rebuilding Maple Leafs enter action Tuesday tied for 30th in the NHL with 47 points.

Video: breaks down Phaneuf to Senators Trade

"Dion is our leader and a real good, good man," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. "I've only had a short time to work with him besides Olympic experiences and summers. A real good person, did it right every day. He tried to be a real good influence on our team.

"The problem is Dion is ready now to win and we're not ready to win. It was a hard decision and I think it's a good decision for Dion … not today, but tomorrow … and it's a good decision for our club moving ahead and following the plan that we've had in place since it started.

Kadri said he and his teammates understand the latest move from Toronto's management group.

"You knew something was definitely in the works and something was going to happen," Kadri said. "We're a team that's going to build to the future and we're trying to figure out what exactly we have now. That's definitely the understanding part about it.

"No one is by any means mad at the franchise or anything. It's something we felt that we had to do in order to make steps in the right direction. Losing a guy like that is unfortunate, but as a team we need to come together and figure out a way to pull ourselves out of this."

Phaneuf, 30, is the first Maple Leafs captain to be traded since Doug Gilmour was sent to the New Jersey Devils in 1997. Toronto general manager Lou Lamoriello was general of the Devils at the time.

Phaneuf was acquired by the Maple Leafs in a seven-player trade with the Calgary Flames, the Maple Leafs' opponent Tuesday, on Jan. 31, 2010, and was named captain four months later.

Babcock said it's up to those in the room to replace Phaneuf's presence.

"Someone's got to step up now," Babcock said. "Someone's got to step up in the room and provide the leadership that he provided. I can't emphasize this enough. He did it right every single day. He did it right when he wasn't at the rink, he did it right at the rink, he did it right in the weight room, he did it right with his coaches and he did it right with his teammates. That's not easy to do. That's what you need on good teams to have success. We've talked about that as a group already. It's a hard, hard business at times. It's an unbelievably great business, but it's a hard business."

Replacing the void left behind Phaneuf isn't an easy task, according to Kadri.

But, he added, the Maple Leafs have to find a way to move forward.

"I think he did great, unbelievable," he said. "Even though sometimes he might've been stressed out, he never showed it once, never brought it into the dressing room, never put the burden on other guys, always took it upon himself to make the team better. I think he did an unbelievable job. He's one of the best captains I've ever played with and ever had.

"That's what makes it so hard to let a guy like that go. It's going to be tough. We're going to miss him in the dressing room [but] life's going to have to go on."

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