Phaneuf-Gaborik trade is big, underwhelming, and downright strange

Kings acquire defenceman Dion Phaneuf in trade with Senators. (AP)

With the trade deadline still 13 days away, things are getting weird.

What would’ve been a blockbuster deal had it transpired in 2010 saw the Kings send 35-year-old Marian Gaborik to Ottawa in exchange for 32-year-old Dion Phaneuf on Tuesday. With both players on the back-nine of their careers and having less-than-ideal seasons, this flip was more about salaries and cash than anything else.

So here’s how the salary figures break down:

Phaneuf has three years left at $7M per, while Thompson has one year left after this season at $1.65M. with the Senators retaining 25 percent of Phaneuf’s salary for the next three season, a total of $17.4 million is heading to Los Angeles—an acquired average cap-hit per season of $5.8 million.

Ottawa, meanwhile, will take on all of Gaborik’s $4.875-million salary and retain $1.75 of Phaneuf’s cap hit through 2021, totalling a combined $6.625 per season. Not being a cap team, however, means the $5 million Ottawa saves in real money over the terms of the contract is more beneficial than the added cap hit.

For a team that is going to be nowhere near the cap ceiling for the foreseeable future as it begins a sort of hybrid rebuild while likely trying to retain Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, and Erik Karlsson, this kind of smells like a move to bring the Sens up to the salary cap floor next season, indicating they may plan on flipping a few more higher-paid assets and entering 2018-19 with a bare-bones roster. Or, maybe they’ll go the complete opposite way and use some of the real pennies they saved in Tuesday’s deal to help incentivize Karlsson to stay.

Maybe this move means they’re just paving the way for an increased role for Thomas Chabot on the left side? Didn’t really have to flip Phaneuf to make that happen, though. Maybe they think Gaborik will find his game from, like, 2008? Or will they buy him out this summer?

Details may surface that help account for the actions of the two fine NHL general managers in Ottawa and LA. At this moment, however, this gets chalked up as a strange one for both clubs.