On This Day In Toronto Maple Leafs History: January 31st
The Toronto Maple Leafs sent forwards Jamal Mayers, Matt Stajan, and Niklas Hagman accompanied by defenseman Ian White to the Calgary Flames for forward Frederik Sjostrom, defensemen Dion Phaneuf, and Keith Aulie.
At the time, the Leafs were acquiring a 24-year-old star in Phaneuf. He had been named a first-team all-star only a few years prior as well as already attending two all-star games. Although not an officially recognized award, he had also been EA Sports’ NHL 09 cover athlete.
Another notable player in the deal was Keith Aulie. He was the Flames’ fourth round pick in the 2007 NHL draft but was seen as a solid prospect playing in his first professional hockey season in the American Hockey League (AHL). It looked like the Leafs had acquired two key pieces for the future of their blueline.
Phaneuf was acquired to be the Leafs foundational piece on their backend, combining his 6-foot-4 frame with his elite offensive game.
Unfortunately, in the following seasons he would see a fairly steep decline in his play. Many attribute this to going from playing in a much more insulated role in Calgary versus his role in Toronto where he was “the guy”. Whatever the reason, it was shown in the eye-test, analytics, and regular boxscore statistics.
Despite this, Phaneuf would be named the 18th captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs that following summer. He would hold this title until he was traded in 2016. His tenure is marred by failure both his own but also as a franchise. Rightly or wrongly, he would face a lot of criticism in Toronto even though he was surrounded by a flawed team.
The other key piece in the trade, Keith Aulie would also never pan out to meet the hype he was given. He would play a total of 57 NHL games with the Leafs before being dealt in 2012 for former first rounder, prospect Carter Ashton. Although not very relevant, he would also not pan out. Aulie retired in 2021 after playing multiple years in the DEL. Ashton is currently playing for Leksands IF of the SHL.