Let’s assume that Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan is earnest in his pursuit of a left-handed defenseman who can play alongside the right-handed shooting Mike Green on the Caps’ blue line.

Let’s also assume the salary cap escalates to $70 million, providing the Capitals with roughly $14 million in cap space.

Whom should the Caps target as that top-end defenseman and how should they go about getting him?

If MacLellan wants to go the trade route -- he says he’s talked to about half of the league’s 29 other general managers -- the name Dion Phaneuf certainly comes to mind.

At 29, Phaneuf is in the prime of his NHL career but comes with a killer contract -- seven years, $49 million beginning next season. Phaneuf was beaten up by the Toronto media last season and is in desperate need of a change of scenery. His no-movement clause kicks in on July 1, so the clock is ticking for the Leafs to move him now.

Phaneuf is big (6-foot-3, 214 pounds), productive (eight goals, 23 assists) and can eat up big minutes (23:33), but unless the Leafs agree to pay a large portion of his salary, Phaneuf could be a financial albatross to any NHL suitor.