Toronto Maple Leafs: Defensive Dilemma

Scott QuinnCorrespondent IJune 19, 2008

In a previous article, I suggested that either McCabe or Kubina (or both) must go this summer if the Leafs are to rebuild. But, it has become apparent that this is not likely to happen.

Bryan McCabe's agent Ian Pulver recently stated that Bryan has no intention of lifting his no-movement clause for any reason, including the possibility of being traded to his off-season home, Long Island and the New York Islanders.

So if you can't trade him, you could buy him out, but at what cost? His buyout would be $1.6 million against the cap for 6 years! While $1.6mil might not hurt this season or even next, who is to say 4-6 years from now that won't be very valuable cap space going to waste.

Next is Kubina. There is a break in his No-Trade Clause this summer from Draft Day (June 20th) to August 15th, meaning unlike the rest of the NTC pack, he can be dealt this summer without any jumping through hoops.

By backing out of a Trade Deadline deal to San Jose at the last minute, Kubina made Cliff Fletcher furious and seemingly only delayed his departure from the team by a few months. But now that has changed. Kubina stepped up his game towards the end of last season and finds himself in the Leafs good books for once. In fact, Fletcher was recently quoted as saying "If anyone approaches us on Kubina, it would have to bring substantial return". So not only are they not looking to move him, but it sounds like they would prefer not to.

Of course, there is also Tomas Kaberle in the mix. But not only is he the cheapest of the three, but arguably the best player. Also, he is the least likely to waive his no-trade clause, so this really is more about Kubina and McCabe.

Keeping Tomas Kaberle, Bryan McCabe and Pavel Kubina does not seem like progress. That $15 million trio takes up more than 25% of the cap, but was half of a defence that allowed among the most goals against in the league, despite having a great goaltender in Vesa Toskala.

So what can be done?

Well, if McCabe won't move willingly, they could scratch him and make him watch games from the press box until he demands a trade. But, not only is that very classless, but who is to say he won't call their bluff and just say, 'I don't care if I don't play, I'm still getting paid and there is nothing you can do but buy me out'.

They can keep all three. This is what it appears they will be doing. While this may leave a lot of money tied up, it's only two more years until Kubina's gone, and three more until all three are. It's unlikely the Leafs can fully rebuild in less than 2 or 3 years anyway. Besides, with a new coach and new forwards, maybe all three will prove their worth this season.

However, I still stand by my original statement; trade McCabe or if you can't than Kubina is gone. This is what they should be doing. There are only two good veteran defencemen available in Free Agency this year (Campbell & Redden) so Kubina's trade value should be very high.

Either way, Friday's draft should provide some indication of what the Leafs plan to do in this situation, whether through some trade activity (trading Kubina) or a lack there of. If they draft a defenceman early in the draft (with the 7th pick or by moving up), it may also be a sign that they have a plan to deal one of this trio of high-priced defencemen.