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Toronto Maple Leafs and captain Dion Phaneuf say they plan to focus on defence after their recent slump. FILE PHOTO: REUTERS/Mike Cassese (Mike Cassese/Reuters)
Toronto Maple Leafs and captain Dion Phaneuf say they plan to focus on defence after their recent slump. FILE PHOTO: REUTERS/Mike Cassese (Mike Cassese/Reuters)

The Phaneuf trade, two years later Add to ...

There's really not much left to evaluate from the Dion Phaneuf trade.

The Toronto Maple Leafs really essentially win by default, as the Calgary Flames have just Matt Stajan left to show for the high profile deal made back on Jan. 31, 2010.

And Stajan has nearly played his way out of the NHL this season.

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But with the Leafs in Calgary to face the Flames on Tuesday night, let's look back at the full deal.

For those with short memories:

Leafs acquire: Phaneuf, Fredrik Sjöström and Keith Aulie Flames acquire: Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Ian White and Jamal Mayers

Phaneuf, of course, is the Leafs captain and sits tied for sixth in scoring among NHL defencemen. Sjostrom is in the Swedish league. Aulie has split this season between the Marlies and Leafs and struggled at times in both leagues.

Stajan is clinging to an NHL job in Calgary. Hagman is a third-liner in Anaheim. White, easily the best of the bunch on this side of the deal, is playing big minutes with the league leading Red Wings. And Mayers is a serviceable fourth-liner in Chicago.

Looking back at the deal, two years later, what this trade involved was a top pairing defenceman (Phaneuf) and a prospect (Aulie) for three fringe NHL players and someone in White who's turned out to be more valuable than many gave him credit for.

Calgary made at least four serious errors here.

One was in assuming Phaneuf's struggles in his own end (and issues in the dressing room) were unfixable. It's taken some time, but Leafs coach Ron Wilson and assistant coach Rob Zettler have done a nice job in getting Phaneuf to adjust his defensive game to the point they can rely on him in top pairing minutes against other teams' top lines.

He's certainly not a top shutdown defender, but he's useful in that role now. The Flames obviously didn't see that coming.

No. 2 was signing Stajan to that big ticket contract right away. Even if they'd made this trade and let Stajan walk, at least Calgary would have freed up some cap space and been able to sign someone else. (In theory anyway.)

No. 3 was not using White in a meaningful role. The Flames dealt the undersized defenceman to Carolina for depth players Tom Kostopoulos and Anton Babchuk nine months after getting him from Toronto.

While White has bounced around since then, he clearly had the tools to be a top four defenceman with the Leafs and has shown that promise in Detroit, too.

No. 4? Not getting any kind of high end potential in this trade. No prospects. No up-and-comers. No draft picks.

And it shouldn't be any surprise that Flames GM Darryl Sutter lasted less than a year from when he pulled the trigger on this turkey.

On the day this trade was made, the Leafs were last in the Eastern Conference with 45 points after 56 games. Calgary was eighth in the West with 62 points after 55 games.

Heading into Tuesday's game, they're at almost exactly the same spot in the standings, battling for a playoff spot.

And the Phaneuf deal is one key reason why Toronto has been able to catch up.

Follow on Twitter: @mirtle

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