The Toronto Maple Leafs will introduce a new sweater and a new captain on Monday, although neither announcement is a big surprise.
Leafs president and general manager Brian Burke confirmed Friday what has been talked about for months, since he joined the team in a blockbuster trade with the Calgary Flames, that defenceman Dion Phaneuf will be the team's 17th captain. Phaneuf, 25, was one of four players who served as alternate captains last season.
Phaneuf, forward Fredrik Sjostrom and defence prospect Keith Aulie came to Toronto on Jan. 31 for forwards Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman and Jamal Mayers and defenceman Ian White. As soon as Phaneuf arrived, the talk started that he would eventually become the Leafs' captain.
He succeeds Mats Sundin, who left the team after the 2007-08 season. Since then, the Leafs operated without a captain. Last season, Phaneuf and fellow defencemen Tomas Kaberle, Mike Komisarek and François Beauchemin rotated as alternate captains.
Since Kaberle is expected to be traded when the window on the no-trade clause in his contract opens later this month, Beauchemin and Komisarek will probably be the permanent alternate captains.
Now that he has the C on his sweater, Phaneuf will be under more pressure than any other Leaf to improve his on-ice performance. While his leadership was a welcome addition to the Leaf dressing room, Phaneuf finished the season with 32 points in 81 games split between the Leafs and the Flames. It was the lowest total in his five NHL seasons. His salary will rise to $7-million (all currency U.S.) this season, which means much more offensive production will be expected.
No radical changes are expected when the new Leaf sweaters are unveiled on Monday. It is expected the horizontal stripes on the bottom of the jerseys, which were dropped several years ago, will be restored and shoulder patches will be added. The shoulder patch is expected to be an older version of the Maple Leafs logo.
Burke scoffed at a New York Post report that his mentor, New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello, is the front-runner in the Kaberle sweepstakes. But he allowed that he would not be surprised if Lamoriello pursues Kaberle hard since the Devils' first-round playoff loss to the Philadelphia Flyers showed they need improvement on defence.
Once again, Burke repeated his insistence that his price for Kaberle is a high-end forward and not necessarily a first-round draft pick. Under the terms of Kaberle's contract, Burke can trade him from June 25, the day of the entry draft, to Aug. 15.
"I'm going to go for the best player I can get to help my team," Burke said. "If it's not a good enough player, would I take a first[-round pick] if it's a second-tier player? Yes."