GM Sutter says Phaneuf not on trade block

January, 8, 2010

Type in "Dion Phaneuf" and "trade rumor" in a search engine and you'll find plenty of results. Which makes me wonder, why is that?

I guess in this day of bloggers in their basement, anything goes. But you read it here: Dion Phaneuf is not going anywhere any time soon.

"Put that to bed," Calgary Flames GM Darryl Sutter told on Thursday.

It's rare for an old-school GM like Sutter to even comment on trade rumors, much like Doug Wilson or Lou Lamoriello or Bob Gainey, but I must have caught him on a day where he had had enough. Sutter said he has no plans to trade the 24-year-old star defenseman. That's not to say other teams aren't inquiring.

"We get calls about our defensemen," Sutter said. "Teams think that we have seven or eight guys that are playing good and they think you have one available. But there isn't one [available]. ...

"Dion's played good," Sutter later added. "Between [Mark] Giordano, Jay [Bouwmeester] and Dion, for young players, they've played pretty good. That's what gets overlooked. We're pretty young there. Our oldest is [Cory] Sarich, who is 31, and he's missed half the games. We've made the commitment to these young defensemen, they are signed players. We're not fooling around with our defense."

Just why then, I asked Sutter again, have these Phaneuf trade rumors gotten so much life this season?

"Quite honestly, it probably started a couple of months ago when it got in the paper that [head coach] Brent [Sutter] and Dion had an argument." Then, the GM added with a chuckle, "Brent and Dion are as close as me and Brent. So you know what? It is what it is."

It may also be because Phaneuf is an easy target. He's not that well-liked by the local media because he's a brooding type that doesn't play well with the scribes.

"The other part of it is, and quite honest, him being an Alberta boy playing in Alberta, that's probably part of it, too," Sutter said. "He doesn't protect himself in the media. He's not a salesman. If he had his druthers, he'd rather not do interviews. It's just the way he is. Everybody thinks he's a sourpuss, but he's very protective."

Phaneuf gets picked on by some fans, as well, and that's because his 20-goal rookie season in 2005-06 set the bar high. He hasn't duplicated that goal total since.

"You know what, I think it goes hand in hand that he came in as a dynamic player, he had a great first year and he scored the goals," Sutter said. "He's the only top-10 pick that the team has had that's become a top player [in about] 15 years or whatever it is. Whenever he has one bad game, it's a headline. What about the next seven games when he's good?

"People want to do the Shea Weber-Dion Phaneuf [comparison]. Well, they are different types of guys and different types of players, and they just don't fall out of trees."

(FYI: Phaneuf's no-trade clause doesn't kick in until the fourth year of his six-year deal. He's currently in the second year of that deal.)

Sutter said when people in his parts complain about Phaneuf, he always responds the same way.

"I say, 'Take him out of the lineup and see how much you like it,'" Sutter said.

The league responds
I had a rant from a reader this week, which finally has an answer from the NHL. First, take a look at the rant again:

flyersfan1981: Pierre, I know the Winter Classic was a smashing hit. It was an incredible event and a great game (despite Burnside's skepticism that the Flyers were a poor choice). I know all of this because I was there. I had never been to Fenway Park and it was great to see that stadium. Every detail was handled well and the Bruins did a great job. The Bruins fans were welcoming and cordial to the large contingent of Flyers fans and that back-and-forth chants of Flyers-Bruins fans sent chills down my already chilly spine. The weather was perfect.

I understand the economics of supply and demand, and I also understand the NHL is a business. But this event was beyond overpriced. I acquired my tickets from the Flyers at a face value of $225 (paid $500 for the pair with taxes and such). I couldn't see anything. I know Fenway is old and had obstructed views, but I couldn't even see the one goal because of a support post and a foul pole. There was only one screen to see the game and, sure enough, that one was blocked, too. This event is marketed as a celebration of hockey's roots. But for those that support the NHL through thick and thin, to get overpriced tickets AT FACE VALUE is just plain wrong! ... They need to stop holding the event in old baseball stadiums because the sightlines are terrible for the fans paying good money.

On Thursday, NHL senior spokesman Jamey Horan e-mailed me the following response to flyersfan1981:

"Fenway Park is one of the most cherished sporting venues in the world and provided an unforgettable setting for the NHL Winter Classic. It reminded us why in three short years, the Winter Classic has become one of the most special events on the national sports calendar. Demand for this game was high, as we received more than 307,000 requests for tickets.

"Some of the attributes that make the 97-year-old ballpark such a unique place -- the charm of being the oldest and smallest ballpark in Major League Baseball, the wonderful atmosphere it provides and its special quirks and oddities -- also present operational challenges.

"Having been constructed during a different architectural age, Fenway is known to offer impaired views in some of its seating areas. The NHL worked diligently to limit the number of seats with compromised views of the rink. Realizing that some of the best seats for baseball would be some of the more limited-view seats for hockey, we adjusted pricing accordingly. In the grandstands, there will be a pole in the sight-line in every section for any event at Fenway Park.

"It was only after extensive analysis of major events across a number of different sports, as well as other significant dates in the recent history of Fenway Park, that we set the value of each ticket. In the face of so many challenges, some obstructed views remained.

"Our fans, players, teams and partners all tell us they absolutely love the Winter Classic, and reiterated to us what a special day it was and it produced lasting memories."

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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