Teams Set To Bolster Blueline With Kabs; Bolstering Leafs' Frontline

Graeme BoyceCorrespondent IAugust 9, 2010

MONTREAL- APRIL 10:  Toronto Maple Leafs fans support tehir team during the NHL game against the Montreal Canadiens on April 10, 2010 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Maple Leafs defeated the Canadiens 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

Changes are coming soon, on a few fronts.  We in Leafs-land are practically assured change in this upcoming week, as Brian Burke is now waiting for the final offer to be tabled before deciding if Kaberle remains.  Likewise, hockey fans in many NHL cities across the continent are enjoying a summer of shake-ups, and debates abound.  

The Dallas Stars are a team on the block and their management might continue to please new suitors and shed weighty contracts, joining their counterparts over in the Phoenix Coyotes camp surely looking to increase shareholder value. 

Apparently, the Stars would welcome a puck-moving defenseman to pair with Stephane Robidas or Nicklas Grossman.  In recent days we are led to believe quite a few other teams certainly still need a puck-moving defenseman.

When Brian Burke pulls the next rabbit out of the hat, it'll be in the form of a new forward - plug and play, no development required.   Thus, the Leafs will make the playoffs in 2011.  So, maybe he's talking to the recently sold Tampa Bay Lightning, and thus we might see some changes in light of the Simon Gagne acquisition. 

Perhaps Brian Burke is wading in new ponds these days, seeking to land a forward.  But other teams also seeking forwards include San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Buffalo, Minnesota, Washington and Columbus.  Of course, making things interesting for front offices are players preferring the competitive KHL, such as Maxim Afinogenov and Denis Grebeshkov.

On that note, the Capitals need to complement winger Alexander Semin, one of the reasons the team did not advance further in the playoffs last year.  The Kings lost a Frolov to the Rangers and replaced him with a Poni. 

This summer when the New York Islanders obtained defenseman James Wisniewski, the Anaheim Ducks' blueline corps slimmed to Lumobir Visnovsky, Sheldon Brookbank and Tony Lydman.  The dangling of oft-injured Kevin Bieksa have certainly kept rumours bubbling, but last month the Leafs signed Cup-winning defenceman Brett Lebda. 

In the hopes of not repeating a premature exit again next year, the Sharks added Jamal Mayers to their frontline.  While Buffalo, desperate for any truculence after their own first-round exit, signed Rob Niedermayer, who brings along 181 goals, 269 assists and 882 penalty minutes over his Cup-winning career.

Speaking of tough guys, the Sens signed Francis Lessard... 2,357 penalty minutes over 10 seasons (487 games) in the AHL.  So, with this move, Ottawa promises to deliver a competitive team against the Leafs during the upcoming Battle of Ontario, while likely won't even need protective equipment when facing the Habs.

The Devils will re-sign Ilya Kovalchuk, and Jason Spezza will remain a Senator.  Yet change is coming, as too many teams have offered players in order to obtain Tomas Kaberle.  A multi-player deal might result and include other players, such as Nicolai Kulemin and Luke Schenn, and hopefully (for his own sanity) Jeff Finger.

Burke can also offer up Mikhail Grabovski, and likely will.  Christian Hanson has to certainly prove himself in camp, and with the latest moves Colton Orr isn't the heaviest man on the team anymore; new guy Marcel Mueller weighs in at 228 lbs, yet at 6'4" he's not the tallest, that award goes to Brayden Irwin at 6'5".

The Maple Leafs need a big and tough scoring winger, one willing to go to the net, and Vinny Lacavalier fits the bill - but the Lighting enjoy cap space - whereas Ryan Malone has seen his better days.  Over in Panther-land, David Booth is attractive and from the opposite coast Bobby Ryan is still fuelling most rumour mills.

Only a few days left to go in the window to ship out Kaberle, or keep him until it becomes more convenient; either way the move or non-move must ensure a Cup within two years, or both Burke and Ron Wilson will be subject to change, and the re-building will begin anew.

At least Phaneuf is up for the leading the charge.