TSN reporter Darren Dreger is reporting that Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke has sent a fax to all NHL clubs outlining Tomas Kaberle’s contract status and the fact that the Czech defenseman is, in fact, available.
The fax also points out that Kaberle’s no-trade clause will expire prior to the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, but will be in effect in August.
Needless to say, there are a lot of NHL clubs that may be interested in a top-flight defenseman with Kaberle’s resume and achievements. Kaberle is highly regarded throughout NHL circles and it is being reported that as many as five NHL teams have already contacted Burke about the asking price for said defenseman.
What Burke and Dreger are unwilling to share with us is which teams are/may be interested in Kaberle.
Here is a look at my short list of teams that may be in the market for a player of Kaberle’s ilk—a very skilled, very disciplined, all-star caliber puck
moving defenseman who can run a power play and is a model citizen on and off the ice.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have a tough decision to make this offseason—should they re-sign 37 year old defenseman Sergei Gonchar, or should they go in another direction?
Of the unrestricted free agent defensemen available, only Scott Niedermayer (who is likely going to retire) and Nik Lidstrom (who just re-signed with Detroit) bring the skill set that can replace a player of Gonchar’s calibre.
Defensemen such as Dan Hamhuis, Willie Mitchell, Pavol Kubina, Kim Johnsson and Dennis Seidenberg are all attractive options for the Penguins, but none of them bring what Kaberle brings—for better or for worse.
Why would the Penguins need a player like Kaberle?
First, not everyone is sold on having Alex Goligoski (eight goals, 37 points in 2009-10) and Kris Letang (three goals, 27 points in 2009-10) as their go-to offensive defensemen.
Goligoski and Letang have huge upsides, but given their inconsistencies (Goligoski scored just twice in his final 54 regular season games, Letang going from ten goals in 2008-09 to just three in 2009-10), the Penguins may wish to bring in another veteran defenseman, namely, Kaberle.
As far as what comes back in return to the Leafs, we have already read plenty of rumors suggesting Brian Burke would be asking for center Jordan Stall—which I think is a pipe dream.
More than likely, Burke would settle for the Penguins 2010 first round draft choice (22nd overall) and perhaps a mid-range prospect, such as, defenseman Ben Lovejoy or forward Nathan Moon.
With the 22nd pick, the Leafs could look to select a player, such as, Kitchener Rangers sniper Jeff Skinner—who despite being ranked at 15th (International Scouting Service) may slide as far down as 25th overall, Warroad, Minnesota native Brock Nelson (currently ranked 22nd overall)—a 6’3, 205 pound forward, who has great size and skill, or perhaps a guy like Lethbridge, Alberta native Brad Ross (currently ranked 33rd)—a player that has been compared to former Maple Leaf Darcy Tucker and Penguins ultra-pest Matt Cooke.
Clearly, there are plenty of options for the Leafs at the 22nd slot of the draft, alas we simply do not have enough time to go through them all.
Columbus Blue Jackets:
While I do not see the Blue Jackets making this deal (see my article here: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/398951-which-players-will-leafs-gm-brian-burke-go-after-with-columbus-4-pick), there have been plenty of rumors suggesting Columbus may be looking for a veteran puck mover to help get them to the promised land of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Blue Jackets own the fourth overall pick in the draft and, while I am not so sure Kaberle would fetch that kind of return, stranger things have happened.
If Burke could pull off a deal for the Blue Jackets fourth overall pick he could take a shot at landing some impressive talent including forward Brett Connolly, defensman Erik “God” Gudbranson and the highly-touted Nino Niederreiter.
Throughout the playoffs, one thing became very clear for the Vancouver Canucks—they need more defensive depth.
Complicating matters is that Canucks veteran defenseman Willie Mitchell is a unrestricted free agent this summer, who, when healthy, is a huge contributor for the Canucks, especially physically.
While not as physical as Mitchell, Kaberle could obviously help the Canucks on the power play (which missed the departed Mathias Ohlund last season) and give the Canucks some much needed experience on the back end while also supplying the Canucks with another offensive threat who can move the puck out of the defense zone with ease and finesse.
Vancouver owns a bevy of prospects including forwards Michael Grabner, Jordan Schroeder (admittedly, the Canucks would be unlikely to deal this talented kid) and Sergei Shirokov—all of whom may be available for the likes of Kaberle. And no, the Leafs are not landing Cody Hodgson, it’s not happening!
Burke may also be happy with the Canucks first round draft pick (27th overall) and a mix of other picks to help off-set what he gave up in the Phil Kessel deal with Boston.
Either way, Vancouver would be a great fit for Kaberle as it would give him a shot at a Stanley Cup for years to come and the chance to play with the Sedin Twins, Roberto Luongo and others may be enough to entice him to sign a long-term deal, which is the key to any deal involving Kaberle in my opinion.
New Jersey Devils:
Much like the Vancouver Canucks, the New Jersey Devils defense was exposed during their series against the Philadelphia Flyers as lacking mobility and in need of some experience.
Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello has demonstrated that he has the ability to pull off the big deals why not a deal for Kaberle?
The Devils do not own a first round draft pick, which may make it difficult for them to land Kaberle. That said, the Devils do own a number of decent prospects including, forwards Mattias Tedenby, Alexander Vasyunov, Jacob Josefson and Clinton, New York native Nick Palmieri—who has played well for Team USA.
Burke could also ask for a roster player from the Devils, such as, David Clarkson—a player that many suggest the Leafs and their fans would love to land.
Other destinations for Kaberle may include the Washington Capitals (who could use a defensively responsible/veteran player to play alongside Mike Green), the Anaheim Ducks (who may neede to replace Scott Niedermayer), the Chicago Blackhawks (who may need to rid themselves of some serious salary in the offseason with Kaberle being a affordable option) or any number of other NHL teams.
Given the fact the Leafs are so deep on defense both on their NHL roster and organizationally, I only see good things coming from a Tomas Kaberle trade.
First, Leaf fans won’t have to go to a game and scream “SHOOT” at Kaberle every time he gets the puck on the power play. Second, given the fact the Leafs are still rebuilding, adding more prospects is never a bad thing or third, the Leafs land a decent roster player which helps them immediately.
Further, as the word gets out and the offers start flying in for Kaberle’s services I suspect a bidding war to break out, which, in the end, should ensure Brian Burke and the Leafs land the best deal possible.
One thing is for sure, Kaberle is as good as gone and I, for one, am “ok” with that.
Until next time,