One Move Leafs GM Brian Burke Should Not Make

BizContributor IFebruary 15, 2009

As a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, I am intrigued by what newly hired GM Brian Burke will do next/first. A lot of talks are swirling about Antropov and Pony going to Cup competitors; good riddance. Toskala might be heading to a competitor as a solid backup. The way he’s played this year he would be lucky to take a job from the likes of Ty Conklin or Brian Boucher. No one wants to pay $4 million a year for Jason Blake. One name that may draw some attention is Tomas Kaberle.
Kaberle’s performance can only be described as slumping when compared to his own track record. Rather, his season has been productive as far as NHL defenseman standards go. In saying this, many have said that Kaberle has to go, and that the Leafs need to get something for the only real asset they have now. Why? The guy is at a career low in terms of market value in the NHL. I don’t think people really understand how good this kid is, and imagine what he could do if surrounded by the slightest bit of talent.
Kaberle, an eighth-round pick in the 1996 draft, 204th overall, is rarely mentioned in the same breath as the "premier" defensemen in the league. There are only two players that were drafted in the 1996 entry draft that have more career points than Kaberle: Daniel Briere and Marco Sturm, both forwards. Since 1994, there has only been one defenseman drafted that has put up more points in the NHL than Tomas Kaberle: Wade Redden. I am tired of hearing that this guy is not a number one D-man in this league.
Strangely enough, no one has a problem calling a guy like Dan Boyle a number one D. As far as I am concerned, if Dan Boyle is a premier defenseman in the NHL, then Tomas Kaberle is a franchise player. Boyle is the No. 1 defenseman for the grossly talented San Jose Sharks, and will be on the 2010 Canadian Olympic squad. When looking at these two guys side-by-side (statistically) you might be surprised; particularly when you consider that Tomas has put up his numbers with very little help.
The undrafted Dan Boyle was born in 1976, and similarly to Kaberle, played his first NHL game in '98. He is two years Kaberle’s senior, and has spent his NHL career playing alongside some very talented players.

This season has seen Boyle quickly become everyone’s new favourite defenseman,   arriving in San Jose and passing the puck to Joe Thornton on that ever so dangerous power play. Dan played the majority of his career playing for the Tampa Bay Lightning and won a Stanley Cup there.

In comparing the two: Boyle has spent his career playing with Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Olli Jokinen. Kaberle has spent his career playing with Mats Sundin. I’m sorry, Leaf fans, but that is who he has played with; No, Darcy Tucker does not fit in here. In saying this, Kaberle still has 101 more points than this guy: Kaberle—431, Boyle—330.
If we learn anything from the progression of a guy like Boyle’s career, we can acknowledge that there are few defenseman who have the ability to go out and create offense on the ice. The San Jose Sharks identified that and rewarded Boyle with a $40 million contract over six years.

Kaberle has shown that he can create offense and put up numbers without the help of the Joe Thorntons and Vincent Lecalvaliers of the world to dump the puck off to and watch put his name on the score sheet. Kaberle has had to go out and make things happen.

Kaberle is the best defenseman in the NHL at gaining the opposition’s blue line, and I stand by that through and through. He singlehandedly got Bryan McCabe his $5.75 million contract with the Leafs, that was later traded to the Florida Panthers. Boyle, on the other hand, in Tampa, stood behind the net, watched St. Louis pick the puck up the puck go end to end, dump off to Vinny, who buried. And now we have him picking up second assists all over the place thanks to Joe Thornton.
What I am saying is that Kaberle is a steal at $4.25 million a year and we have him locked up until 2011. Extend him; Give him $5 million. Come on people, Ron Hainsey makes $4.5 million. Dan Boyle makes $6.67 million a year and puts up inferior numbers to Kaberle.

Plus, the Sharks have agreed to pay Boyle this amount until he turns 38; come on. Give this man some kids to play with and let him teach them what has made him a legit number one d-man in this league. Plus we need to spend money somehow. Put it towards a guy who deserves it and will help the blue line for many years to come.