Some people think Phaneuf falls somewhere in the $5 - $5.5 million range. How could they give him $7 million? That seems to be the biggest issue, the annual average salary. Think about it this way: the salary cap is expected to hit $70 million soon. Rumors are that GM's around the league even anticipate $80 million, then rising to $90 million. How long will it take? No one knows for sure. We do know that the current CBA has another nine years after this so it's fair to think that the rise could occur by the end of Phaneuf's contract. If Phaneuf is worth $7 million in a $64.3 million salary cap world, what do you think he's worth when the cap rises $20 million? And that's where the importance of the length of this deal comes in. With all of that extra money, if Phaneuf were an unrestricted free agent four years from now, he would likely cash in for around $9 million a year. With the term of this deal the Leafs may be overpaying a little for the first couple of years, but the remainder of the contract will be in Toronto's favor.
There's one other crucial reason for this deal. The Leafs are retaining a very valuable asset. I know the two sides are reportedly working on a no movement / no trade clause, but when or if the time comes that they mutually agree to move on, the Leafs hold a big bargaining chip. Friedman's discussion yesterday included why the Blue Jackets were able to find a good return on Rick Nash - the biggest reason was that Nash had significant time left on his contract. A team will be willing to give up more to get Phaneuf if they know they're getting him for multiple seasons, not just a playoff push. He's just 28 years old and still has several solid years in front of him. He has shown that he can handle the pressure of being the Captain in a hockey mad city - why let that pressure fall on the shoulders of Carl Gunnarsson, Franson, Gardiner and Rielly? Best case scenario, is the two sides go on to grow together and everyone involved is better for it.
This signing helps the Leafs in several ways and makes too much sense not to complete. I hope the city of Toronto and Leafs fans everywhere can get behind Phaneuf so this once great franchise can work its way back to a perennial championship contender.