Tomas Kaberle's agent frustrated with Toronto media focus, trade rumors

tomaskaberle2.jpgWhen it comes to summertime trade rumors, the gift that keeps on giving the last couple of years has been Maple Leafs defenseman Tomas Kaberle. Even in spite of having a no-trade clause, Kaberle would manage to end up in idle chatter about being traded. When Kaberle’s no-trade clause opened up on July 1st, it seemed highly likely that the star blue liner was destined to be dealt and freeing the Maple Leafs of the final year of his $4.25 million salary. With the trade market being down and with interested teams not having much in the way of salary mobility, Kaberle has stayed a Maple Leaf and with his no-trade clause going back into effect on Sunday, Kaberle’s agent Rick Curran is getting a bit frustrated with the situation as Yahoo’s Nicholas Cotsonika details.

“The only thing that Tomas gets upset about is this,” Curran said. “For anyone who knows him, he’s a very quiet, laid-back, conservative young man. He has made it very clear what his intentions are. He wants to stay in Toronto. He recognizes that he’s a chattel, that he can be moved. If that’s the case, then move him.

“What he does not appreciate, what he does not enjoy, is being front-page topic of conversation every time Brian decides that he’s got to churn the waters a little bit in order to create a little interest.

“That’s fine. Pick up the phone and call your general manager colleagues. Talk to them about it. But don’t make him front-page news. He didn’t ask for it. He realizes that it’s part of it, of being a Toronto Maple Leaf, but don’t ask him to sit back and enjoy it.”

Yikes, them’s fightin’ words if I’ve ever read them. Obviously Leafs GM Brian Burke is familiar with fighting words and returned fire of his own. Cotsonika continues:

Burke seemed taken aback by Curran’s comments. He said Curran did not bring up these concerns when they spoke Monday. (Curran said he appreciated that Burke called Monday to give him an update. He said it was the first time they had talked since before the trade deadline. Both men go way back and otherwise complimented each other.)

“I will address [his concerns] with him personally,” Burke said. “I have no desire to escalate this. But the fact is: He drafted this clause. This no-trade and the timing of it, this isn’t my handiwork. I’m dealing with what I inherited. And so if he doesn’t like the fact that it puts his client in this position, he can certainly accept some of the blame. I don’t have to.”

Burke has a point as it’s not a contract that he negotiated. That honor falls upon former general manager and source of derision in Toronto, John Ferguson, Jr. So what are two sides that are frustrated going to do about things? They might have to deal with each other for one more year if Burke’s tall trade demands don’t come down. Burke has made it clear he won’t just trade Kaberle away to be rid of him and he wants value on any return in a trade. A Joe Thornton-esque 30-cents-on-the-dollar kind of deal isn’t one Burke is eager to make. Shrewd businessmen are funny like that.

It’s clear that the Maple Leafs have a glut of talent on defense and a remarkable lack of talent amongst their forwards so you have to think that a valuable player like Tomas Kaberle has to have some sort of value to a team looking for solid puck-moving defenseman. Whether those teams are willing to give up the key winger or centerman to help make the deal work out has yet to happen and may not happen at all. Still, should the Leafs end up hanging on to Tomas Kaberle, it sets up the possibility for a very awkward year in Toronto and the possibility of having to ask Kaberle if he’d like to waive his no-trade clause as the trade deadline approaches in March. After all, with everything that Kaberle’s gone through to this point and his apparent frustration with the situation, the likelihood of him re-signing with Toronto seems pretty low and getting anything for him via trade at that point would be helpful to the Maple Leafs.

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    James Neal could return to Predators lineup tonight

    DENVER, CO - MARCH 05:  James Neal #18 of the Nashville Predators celebrates his goal against the Colorado Avalanche to tie the score 2-2 in the third period at Pepsi Center on March 5, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Predators defeated the Avalanche 5-2.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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    The Nashville Predators lineup could be getting a big lift on Tuesday night against the Colorado Avalanche with the possible return of winger James Neal.

    Neal, who has been sidelined since Nov. 25 with an upper body injury, returned to practice on Tuesday for the team’s morning skate and has been activated from injured reserve according to Adam Vingan of the Tennessean.

    The original diagnosis for Neal was to be sidelined on a week to week basis, but it appears he is on the verge of making a return to the lineup after just 10 days.

    If he returns on Tuesday he is expected to skate on a line with Colin Wilson and Mike Fisher, according to the team.

    Prior to the injury Neal had been on quite a scoring tear for the Predators with 10 goals and four assists over a 13-game stretch. It was during that stretch that the Predators had started to turn their season around after a slow start and were quickly climbing the Western Conference standings. They were then hit by a series of injuries that took both Neal and Ryan Ellis out of the lineup. Since Nov. 25 the Predators have now lost three out of their past four and sit in 10th place in the Western Conference, two points behind Winnipeg for the second playoff spot (the Predators, though, still have four games in hand).

    Neal’s 10 goals are still tops on the team. Nobody else has scored more than seven.

    Scheifele injury not long-term, but he’ll miss his third straight game tonight

    Winnipeg Jets' Mark Scheifele celebrates after scoring against the Toronto Maple Leafs during first-period NHL hockey game action in Toronto, Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese)
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    Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg’s No. 1 center and the NHL’s eighth-leading scorer with 26 points through 26 games, will miss his third contest in a row this evening when the Jets host the Red Wings at the MTS Centre.

    But fear not, Jets fans. Scheifele won’t be out much longer.

    “He’s getting better,” head coach Paul Maurice said on Tuesday, per the Jets’ Twitter account. “He skated this morning and felt incrementally stronger each day. This is not a long-term injury.”

    Scheifele, 23, hasn’t played since a 6-3 loss to Edmonton on Dec. 1. His absence is, quite obviously, a big one — in addition to the offensive production, Scheifele averaged over 20 minutes per night and led the team in faceoffs taken.

    He’d also developed terrific chemistry with rookie sniper Patrik Laine, who sits second in the NHL in goals right now with 16.

    To their credit, the Jets have done well without Scheifele in the lineup. They beat the Blues 3-2 in OT on Saturday, then followed that up with a 2-1 win in Chicago on Sunday.

    Eichel is good to go against McDavid and the Oilers

    ANAHEIM, CA - FEBRUARY 24:  Jack Eichel #15 of the Buffalo Sabres looks on during the second period of a game against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on February 24, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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    The Buffalo Sabres played the Washington Capitals close last night, giving themselves a chance to beat one of the best teams in the NHL — on the road to boot.

    Though the Caps eventually won in overtime, it was another encouraging performance by the Sabres, who’ve been a much better side since Jack Eichel returned to the lineup.

    Buffalo (9-10-6) has gone 2-1-1 in the four games Eichel has played. Tonight, another big test, as Connor McDavid and the Oilers pay a visit to KeyBank Center.

    “We have to try and fight our way up the standings,” Sabres winger Kyle Okposo told reporters last night. “You might have some lulls in the season, but we already had ours. We have to make sure we’re pushing forward and doing everything we can to get two points. Getting a point is OK, but we had the lead in the third.”

    Eichel will indeed play tonight. He confirmed that this morning, after there was concern he’d tweaked his ankle against the Capitals.

    “I’m fine. I’m good,” Eichel said, per the Buffalo News. “Going through an injury like this, you know it’s going to come back and bother you at times, but it’s fine now.”

    With Eichel and Ryan O'Reilly, the Sabres have a formidable one-two punch down the middle. When Eichel was out with his ankle injury, it was a serious challenge to fill his spot, and the Sabres just couldn’t manage it very well.

    Now, with Eichel back, it’s about finding that belief — a belief that the Sabres are good enough to compete, that they don’t need to go into a shell as soon as they get the lead.

    That’s what seemed to happen last night in Washington, where the Caps outshot the Sabres, 16-9, in the third period and Marcus Johansson‘s goal at 13:42 sent the game to sudden death.

    “I mean give them credit, they’re a good team, but I think we’re starting to sit back and they have speed, you know?” said goalie Robin Lehner. “I think we see that we can play. We’ve just got to stop changing, changing how we play.”

    The Ottawa Senators are getting tested

    Ottawa Senators' Erik Karlsson stands in front of his bench as the hats are cleared off the ice after a hat trick by Pittsburgh Penguins' Bryan Rust in the third period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. The Penguins won 8-5. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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    We’ve gotten pretty good at identifying vulnerable hockey teams these past few years as the analytics movement has taken hold. The 2013 Toronto Maple Leafs were due for a regression, and regressed. Ditto for the 2013-14 Colorado Avalanche and 2014-15 Calgary Flames.

    Sometimes, teams can survive an entire season while bucking the odds. Which is why the Ottawa Senators will be interesting to watch the rest of the way in 2016-17.

    Under new coach Guy Boucher, the Sens are an impressive 15-9-2, good for second place in the Atlantic Division.

    But the Sens also have many of the statistical markings of a vulnerable team:

    — A score-adjusted Corsi that ranks 27th out of 30
    — A 9-0-2 record in one-goal games
    — A goal-differential of minus-3

    After last night’s 8-5 loss in Pittsburgh, the Sens head to California with just one win in their last four, and without their starting goalie, Craig Anderson, who’s taken another leave to be with his wife.

    Anderson has been brilliant this season, going 12-6-1 with a .924 save percentage. He’s been a huge key to their success, twice earning the NHL’s first-star-of-the-week honors.

    The starting duties will now fall temporarily on Mike Condon, who’s gone 3-1-1 with a stellar .943 save percentage since coming over from Pittsburgh. The Sens’ No. 3 goalie, Andrew Hammond, has been recalled for the road trip, which starts Wednesday in San Jose, continues Saturday in Los Angeles, and wraps up Sunday in Anaheim.

    “It’s a good test to see where our team is at,” forward Derick Brassard told reporters prior to last night’s defeat. “We’re going to play four of the best teams in the league. It’s good for the team to get together and battle through this.”