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If Dion Phaneuf Is Asking for $50M, He Is Not the Right Leaf's Leader

While I have noticed that there weren't too many sports related posts on HuffPo, I also noticed that The Sports Network's flagship show SportsCentre has become less about actual sports and more about four men sitting around a desk speculating over the appropriate range for suspensions involving headshots. So consider this my attempt at balancing the sports universe.

In the spirit of full disclosure: I am an Ottawa Senators fan. When the Leafs traded Tuukka Rask (current starting goalie for the Boston Bruins) for Andrew Raycroft (currently said to be playing for IF Björklöven in Sweden), I hosted a small celebratory reception. When the Leafs traded a 2010 first round pick (Tyler Seguin), a 2010 second round pick and a 2011 first round pick (Dougie Hamilton) for Phil Kessel, I sent Brian Burke a collection of untied ties. Normally, I take great pleasure in the Leafs doing their best Lindsay Lohan impression and making some questionable decisions. But eventually you start pulling for Lindsay in some way, don't you?

Well, it's not like my Sens are doing much better. The Leafs are second in the Atlantic Division (8-4-0), and the Sens are 4 spots below (4-5-2). The Sens let 'God' (ask Siri, she'll tell you) leave the city, because we forgot for a second that 17-year veterans are not to be treated like dented cans of fruit at the grocery store.

But, as Nick Kypreos reports, contract extension talks have started for Dion Phaneuf, and they begin at $50M over 7 years; or as I see it, Lindsay Lohan is thinking about vacationing in Columbia...while becoming a NASCAR driver.

A $7.1M annual cap hit seems a bit excessive, considering the $7M Defenseman club includes names like Shea Weber, Brian Campbell, Drew Doughty and Zdeno Chara (also let go by Ottawa for some strange reason named Wade Redden). Seven million per season, I think, is reserved for very few defensemen in the league.

Maybe it's the captain/elite player premium argument? Well, that would be more palatable, I think, if a recent ESPN player poll did not vote Dion Phaneuf as the most overrated player in the league (for the 2nd year in a row).

But the truth is captains of re-building teams should know better. Nothing puts a wrench in the system quite like a team being forced to decide whether they should spread money around and acquire additional talent, or tie it up in one player, who happens to be the captain. Keep in mind, there are exceptions to every rule: Sidney Crosby ($8.7M cap hit) and ($9.6M cap hit); but you can literally put a team on these guys' shoulders and they can turn Potomac/Ohio river water into wine (just don't tell Lindsay Lohan).

But for every other team without perennial Hart Memorial Trophy winners on their roster, captains could also play a leadership role and take a salary cut, if that means the team has a better chance attracting and retaining talent. And the last time I checked, I don't think anyone has gone out on the limb to suggest all the pieces are in place in Toronto.

Just ask Daniel Alfredsson. But before fans start foaming at the mouth because this post breaches the holy trinity of blasphemy for Leaf fans ("general parking", "Alfredsson" and "humility"), just think of it rationally. Alfredsson, who took over the captaincy in 1999, won the Calder trophy (rookie of the year), gold medalist at the 2006 Olympics, 6-time NHL all-star, and two-time leadership award winner (2012 - King Clancy trophy; 2013 -- Mark Messier trophy), regularly hovered around the $4.8M cap hit mark (played for $1M in his final year in Ottawa). You take a salary cut, but then, in theory, your team could then spend that money elsewhere, like: Karlsson (locking him down until isn't asked for ID anymore at the liquor store), MacArthur, Cowen, and so on.

But would you expect anything different from someone with that sort of resume when it comes to leadership? Alfredsson saw many contracts come and go, some much larger than his, but none of those players dawned the "C". That is a special role, beyond the controller of volume in the locker room; often times, it is unfairly selfless.

You just have to hope that after you lead by example for all of those seasons (17, not 4) you either get a ring or a reward.

So as much as I would like to mark the occasion in celebration, in some sick way I am hoping these Phaneuf contract numbers are just rumours, and not reality. Part of me wants to see the battle of Ontario remain competitive for years to come.

But just in case they are true, I've got a party to plan.

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