Perhaps it’s a testament to the team’s post-lockout struggles that a good-but-by-no-means-transcendent defenseman like Tomas Kaberle has been the source of trade rumors as regularly as the Toronto Maple Leafs disappoint their fans.
In case you haven’t been keeping up with the latest slew of conjecture, the imaginary (and maybe tangible) offers for the offensive defenseman are building to a crescendo because there is a brief window in which his no-trade clause has been lifted. That window will close swiftly on midnight Sunday, although that probably won’t keep Toronto media types and bloggers of varying credibility from speculating afterward. I’d be just as surprised if water turned dry or Chad Ochocinco did something understated.
Anyway, here’s a small update of Kaberle talk from more reliable (though far from infallible) outlets.
First, let’s take a look at Maples Leafs GM Brian Burke’s comments regarding the quality of offers, what he expects to see in the next few days and what kind of package might land a team the defenseman, via TSN.
“I don’t know. There are a large number of teams in, and we’ve received a significant number of offers, but we’re talking about a pretty good player here and we’re not giving him away,” Burke told the FAN 590.
“It’s too early to say. I know it sounds crazy because the deadline is midnight on Sunday, but the simple fact is we haven’t received an offer yet (worth acting on),” added Burke. “We’re not going to see everybody’s best cards until the last couple of days anyhow, so I’m not surprised we don’t have anything that we would take yet, so we’ll see what happens.”
“We’re looking for a forward with size and scoring ability if possible, and if not, we’ve been offered some what I would call “futures packages”, which include a high draft pick and a quality young player, and we haven’t ruled out doing one of those types of deals.
“We’re trying to get better right away – that’s our first goal, first focus and our priority. But we’ve been offered some attractive deals that would be more future-oriented as well,” Burke told the FAN.
Speaking of team’s making offers, you might be able to throw Lightning GM Steve Yzerman’s name into the hat of interested parties. Damian Cristodero of TampaBay.com shares why the Lightning might consider making a pitch.
Kaberle, 32, is a sturdy, efficient puck-moving defenseman who had seven goals and 49 points in 82 games last season for Toronto. He averaged 22:21 of ice time. Yes, he was minus-16 on a bad team. But he had three goals and 25 points on the power play.
Kaberle also has one year left on a contract that will pay $4.25 million next season. Even without the expected salary going to other way in a trade, Kaberle fits under the $59.4 million salary cap as Tampa Bay has about a $10 million cushion. It also means the Lightning is not locked into anything long term. That fits perfectly with Yzerman’s idea of evaluating his roster over the next season or two as he reshapes and rebuilds the organization.
Now, the downside. The Maple Leafs, ideally, want a top-six forward in return. Given the Lightning’s lineup, that would seem to mean Ryan Malone. Look at it this way: Tampa Bay is not trading Steven Stamkos, Marty St. Louis, Simon Gagne, Vinny Lecavalier or Steve Downie, who Yzerman really wants to sign. Malone has struggled his first two years with the Lightning and, maybe most important for this discussion, has a bulky four years and $17 million left on his contract.
The problem with dealing Malone is the Lightning doesn’t have anyone in the organization to replace what the left wing can bring when he is healthy and motivated; that is, a physical presence who digs pucks in the corner, stands in front of the net, can fight and score 25 to 30 goals. If Malone is trade bait, maybe Yzerman makes another move to fill that position.
I like Ryan Malone – he’s a gritty guy with plenty of personality and sporadic scoring ability – but Yzerman is re-making the Lightning roster into a group that has few bloated contracts outside of Vincent Lecavalier’s ludicrous deal. If Yzerman could land a nice player whose cap hit would evaporate after this season, I think he should do it. Of course, that hinges on Burke wanting to take Malone. As much as the outspoken GM loves his rugged, American forwards, I wonder if he’d get suckered into another bad contract with all the empty-carb deals that clog his team’s roster.
Sure, it’s natural to mock all the Kaberle talk, but all the hypothetical situations can be a nice tonic for a puck-less summer. We’ll keep an eye on the action – whether it amounts to a blockbuster deal or a bunch of hot air.