Tomas Kaberle Conundrum: Would the Toronto Maple Leafs Be Crazy To Let Him Go?

Jon NeelyAnalyst IOctober 14, 2010

TORONTO - SEPTEMBER 27: Tomas Kaberle #15 of the Toronto Maple Leafs shoots during warmup before a preseason NHL game at the Air Canada Centre September 27, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
Abelimages/Getty Images

It's become increasingly clear in this young season that I may have had no idea what I'm talking about. Not a surprise.

About a month ago, I wrote an article concerning Tomas Kaberle and how even though his no-trade clause had kicked back in, he was still as good as gone from the Toronto Maple Leafs sometime during this season.

I figured that even with the no-trade back in play, Kaberle would still either asked to be traded or general manager Brian Burke would find a way to force him out eventually before the season was over. Everyone was talking about him, asking him questions, essentially considering him good as gone.

There were more than a few questions posed about his future. Why on earth would he want to play in Toronto? How could Burke say he wouldn't trade Kaberle if he clearly demanded the most in return? How long would he last as a Maple Leaf?

But then something funny happened. Amidst the media completely forgetting about Kaberle while they mauled the Kadri story endlessly, he went and played like the Leafs' best defenseman through the first three games.

It seems that last season's struggles for the team's longest-serving player might have made us all forget just how important he is to this team, especially when he's playing at the top of his game.

And right now, Kaberle is certainly playing at the top of his game.

Through the first three games (all victories), Kaberle is a plus two, has two assists and is averaging more than 23 minutes of ice time.

He has been his usual trustworthy self with the puck in his own end, almost effortlessly moving the puck up the ice and maintaining possession until his teammates can find open ice. He looks faster than ever, has been a stud at quarterbacking the power play thus far, and has not proven to be a liability physically as of yet.

And then there's the ever-popular "why doesn't he shoot the puck?" question, which apparently can be tossed out the window at this point. Because if there's one area of Kaberle's game that's greatly improved through three games, it's that he's shooting the puck.


So with that said, with the fact that he's at the top of his game and a huge part of the Leafs' success, the question now is this: Would the Leafs be crazy to trade Kaberle or let him walk at the season's end?

There's no way they'd get back a player who can do what he does, and no defender on the Leafs is as good at doing what Kaberle does. Dion Phaneuf has been solid but is often caught out of position, as is Francois Beauchemin. Luke Schenn has been better than expected so far, but still has the case of the give-aways, along with slower-than-expected Mike Komisarek, while Carl Gunnarsson has looked completely lost at times in his own end.

None of them have been terrible, but none of them have been as good or as consistent as Kaberle.

Yes, the team is in need of offensive power in the top six (don't be fooled by the fact that they have the second-most goals in the NHL through two games; they need help), but getting rid of the 12-year veteran might be more of a loss than a gain.

And so we reach Brian Burke's conundrum of what to do with Kaberle, because if he plays like this for the next few months, he will only cement his status more as one of the best defensemen as far as bang for your buck goes in the league.

He's making $4.25 million this year—the final year on his contract—which is less than both Komisarek ($4.5 million) and Phaneuf ($6.5 million) make.

It's not something that needs to be addressed right away, thankfully if you're Burke, but Leafs' fans need to take a step back and think about the situation a bit more before they go wishing Kaberle out of town.

With Kaberle gone, the Leafs might get something good in return up front, but it doesn't necessarily mean they'll be better off.

The Leafs most tradeable asset might just be their best defenseman on the team, something that didn't seem like much of an issue before, but now could be the biggest decision of this season.

Does Burke trade him, let him walk at the end of the season or resign him to what would probably be a bigger contract?

It wasn't the easiest decision to make in the first place, but with Kaberle playing the way he is at the start of the season, it might be a decision Burke wants to take more time to think about.

Quite the conundrum indeed.