Tomas Kaberle had acquired a reputation in his 12-year career with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a very good offensive defenseman. A puck mover and passer he produced more than half a point a game for his entire time there. His best season came immediately after the lockout in 2005-06 when he scored nine goals and 67 points in an 82-game season.
He was 27 that year, in the prime of his career. However, when Brian Burke became president and general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs it was felt that Kaberle was not the type of defenseman likely to stay as the new regime attempted to place its own truculent stamp on the organization.
Kaberle has never been a physical defenseman and that shortcoming saw him and his no-trade contract moved to the Boston Bruins at the trade deadline last year for prospect Joe Colborne and Boston's first-round pick and a conditional pick.
Kaberle's numbers weren't significantly worse with Boston than they had been with Toronto. He had nine points in 24 games with Boston in the regular season and then 11 in 25 games in the playoffs as the Bruins went on to win the cup.
However, he wasn't the offensive player the Bruins expected, and what some saw as his rather cavalier approach to defense quickly made him unpopular in Boston. The fact the 6'1" and 214-pound Kaberle has almost no physical component to his game certainly didn't endear him to Boston fans.
Tomas played in all 25 games for the Bruins in the playoffs, but he wasn't really trusted early on and his ice time decreased as the playoff run went on. His 16:01 minutes per game put him far behind Boston's top-four defensemen, who all played more than 20 minutes per game.
A few spectacular gaffes early in the playoffs saw the Bruins more comfortable with the youngster Adam McQuaid playing defense than the veteran Kaberle.
In the offseason, 33-year-old Kaberle was signed by the Carolina Hurricanes to a three-year, $4.25 million-per-year contract. He was to be their top offensive defenseman and replace the departing Joe Corvo, who was signed—ironically enough—by the Bruins for a little over half of Kaberle's salary.
Corvo has two goals and 12 points so far with the Bruins this year while Kaberle had nine assists with Carolina. Certainly financially the Bruins have saved themselves $2 million and have a more complete—albeit older—defenseman in Corvo.
The struggling Hurricanes, who signed the Stanley Cup winner to a three-year contract, have given up on him after only 29 games. Carolina GM Jim Rutherford blasted his signing of Tomas with the comment "I should have known better"—certainly nothing to make Canadiens' fans feel overjoyed with their new acquisition.
Carolina is last in the Eastern Conference so far this year and feels it has learned enough about to Kaberle. It doesn't want to be paying that contract for another three years. It has accepted the one year left at $3.833 million on Jaroslav Spacek's contract to be allowed to get out from under Kaberle.
Spacek is a much older (38 in February) Czech-born offensive defenseman who really has become useless in Montreal. His offensive numbers hit a nice peak with 45 in Buffalo in 2008-09, but he has not managed to reach half that total in any season in Montreal.
The veteran has been a give-away machine in Montreal. His 81 in his first full season in Montreal was the fourth-worst total in the league. The fact he has only played 12 games this has kept him from being a league leader again. At this point in his career he won't be able to help Carolina and is in fact just playing out the end of his contract.
The Montreal Canadiens are currently running the third-least proficient power play in the league (11.8 percent). They do desperately need a power play quarterback to help replace the departed James Wisniewski. Mostly they seem to be missing a big point shot, which isn't Kaberle. Despite his defensive deficiencies he is, however, a good puck mover and has abundant experience as a power-play quarterback.
Kaberle had a good debut with the Canadiens assisting on both goals Saturday afternoon in a 2-1 victory over New Jersey. Kaberle isn't really a solution in Montreal to any of its problems, even on the power play. However, he still is a reasonable power-play quarterback, and if he can keep the mistakes to a minimum, perhaps he can be that veteran presence that provides offensive depth on the blue line.
The loss of Roman Hamrlik to Washington, Spacek to Carolina and Hal Gill likely to retirement next year does leave Montreal in need of a more veteran presence than 27-year-old Josh Gorges.
This isn't a great deal for Montreal, but Spacek was completely useless and Kaberle probably still has some use left in him. Does he have three years and $12 million worth of use left in him? No, but he does represent an attempt by management to address one of the needs that has become painfully obvious in Montreal this year.
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