Tomas Kaberle scuttlebutt: Burke expects offers to heat up, what about Tampa Bay's Malone?

kaberleshovesthrasher.jpgPerhaps 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.”

[snip]

“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.

ryanmalonehappy.jpgSpeaking 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.

[snip]

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.

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    Video: Friday night fights between Bolts and Red Wings

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    Not much offense — actually, just one goal midway through the second period as of the writing of this post — between the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday.

    But there has definitely been some animosity between the two clubs.

    Tempers flared late in the first period, with Adam Erne and Andreas Athanasiou getting involved in a spirited scrap — and Athanasiou unsuccessful in his attempt at the take-down.

    The bad blood continued in the second period with Greg McKegg and Anthony Mantha getting involved in a fight, and Mantha — given the instigator — landing a couple of shots with McKegg on the ice.

     

    NHL, MLB player unions support U.S. women hockey players’ boycott

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    Unions representing NHL and Major League Baseball players are backing U.S. Women’s National Hockey team players’ decision to boycott next week’s world championships because of a wage dispute.

    The NHL Players’ Association posted a note on its Twitter account on Friday saying it supports the U.S. players while panning USA Hockey’s bid to stock the team with replacements. The NHLPA says the decision to go with replacement players “would only serve to make relations, now and in the future, much worse.”

    Earlier in the day, the MLB Players Association encouraged all women hockey players to stand united behind their national team colleagues.

    Read more: USA Hockey says it will not offer living wage, as dispute with women’s national team continues

    The Twitter messages were posted a day after USA Hockey announced it would begin gauging interest of replacement players to compete at the tournament, which opens next Friday in Plymouth, Michigan.

    Players are seeking a four-year contract that includes payments outside the six-month Olympic period.

    Brock Boeser Watch is officially on in Vancouver

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    It’s been a bleak season for the Vancouver Canucks.

    Perhaps developments Friday evening can provide some optimism for fans of a team that can’t score, has trouble defending and has been decimated by injury.

    Brock Boeser’s sophomore college season came to an end Friday, as North Dakota lost 4-3 to Boston University in double overtime. The Canucks selected Boeser 23rd overall in the 2015 draft with the hopes the talented right winger would one day become a central figure in that team’s scoring attack.

    In his first season at North Dakota, Boeser scored 27 goals and 60 points in 42 games. His overall production dropped in his sophomore year — he had wrist surgery in December — but he still averaged more than a point per game in 31 contests, with 16 goals.

    With North Dakota’s campaign finished, the Canucks can now work to get Boeser under contract and perhaps get him into some NHL games to close out what has been a disappointing season in Vancouver.

    In that case, the Canucks would burn the first year of his entry-level contract.

    The Canucks, officially eliminated from playoff contention, have nine games remaining on their schedule.

    More from The Province:

    Giving the fans something to get excited about in another season gone south seems as vital as giving Boeser a crash course on what to expect next season.

    The Canucks are willing to burn a year of his entry-level deal because playing one game at age 20 would do that. But it seems worth the price for an organization in transition, even if Boeser would become a restricted free agent after two seasons and be in line for a big pay day should his production match predictions of effectiveness.

    The Canucks are in Minnesota on Saturday and Winnipeg on Sunday.

    It seemed, several weeks ago, that North Dakota’s hockey program was preparing for Boeser to turn pro after his second year ended.

    Related: Trading Burrows and Hansen represents significant ‘shift’ for Canucks

    Survival of the lucky? Stanley Cup playoff hopes can rise and fall with significant injuries

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    There’s plenty of knocking on wood this time of year around the NHL as teams hope to avoid injuries that could damage their playoff hopes.

    For some, it’s already too late.

    The Tampa Bay Lightning lost Steven Stamkos for four months — and counting — and now Tyler Johnson. The Florida Panthers went without Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov for much of the year. The Los Angeles Kings tried to stay afloat without goaltender Jonathan Quick until late February but will likely miss the playoffs.

    While the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins have withstood a barrage of injuries and the league-leading Washington Capitals have largely avoided them, they’re keenly aware of how quickly even one injury can make a difference.

    “There’s other teams that are good teams that have just had some bad luck,” Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said. “Tampa Bay just couldn’t overcome the injuries. If Tampa Bay has Stamkos all the way through the season, they’d certainly be in a different place.”

    Read more: Injuries keep adding up for Lightning

    Considered Cup contenders at the start of the season, the Lightning had to make a run just to get within three points of a playoff spot with nine games remaining.

    The Panthers got Barkov and Huberdeau back and dug out of an early hole, but a lower-body injury to goaltender Roberto Luongo contributed to a 3-7-1 tailspin that might ultimately cost them the chance to make the postseason for a second consecutive year.

    “Sometimes just your body breaks up because of the games and stuff like that,” said Barkov, who missed 15 games with a back injury. “Some teams just get more injuries, and some teams just get lucky not to get injuries.”

    Injuries have again been the story of the year for the Penguins, who are currently without half their regular defense in Kris Letang, Trevor Daley and Olli Maatta, and also lost trade acquisition Ron Hainsey. But they haven’t missed a beat.

    “The guys that have come in just understanding whatever role that they get, they have to be accepting of it,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “They have a lot of responsibility in most cases, too, because they’re filling in for some guys who play a lot of key minutes.”

    Injuries were a severe blow to the Dallas Stars, with 292 man games lost, and 265 man games lost has put the Detroit Red Wings’ 25-season playoff streak in serious jeopardy. The Edmonton Oilers have around 300 man games lost, but unlike last year’s stumble when Connor McDavid broke his collarbone they are poised to end a 10-year playoff drought.

    “This organization seems to have a way of getting beat up and having injuries and needing others to support the group, and this year I think we’ve done a better job,” coach Todd McLellan said. “We haven’t lost those key forwards, knock on wood, like we did last year.”

    Tampa Bay did when Stamkos tore the meniscus in his right knee Nov. 15 after putting up 20 points in his first 17 games. Friday night marked his 57th consecutive game out of the lineup.

    Yet in Washington, the Capitals have a grand total of 42 man games lost all season and have only dealt with a hand injury that sidelined forward Andre Burakovsky 15 games and upper-body ailments that cost T.J. Oshie 13. Defenseman Brooks Orpik believes the Capitals’ fortunes are a combination of off-ice injury prevention techniques and luck, while the team’s brass thinks it’s also about taxing players less each game.

    “The team philosophy of going four lines and spreading the ice time out and spreading the ice time out on defense and spreading the ice time out among your goalies, I think it puts less stress on your lineup,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “Having a deep team, I think, results in less injuries.”

    Depth up front helped the Chicago Blackhawks withstand captain Jonathan Toews‘ nine-game absence with back problems, and having backup Antti Raanta kept the New York Rangers on track when goaltender Henrik Lundqvist went out for two weeks this month with a lower-body injury. Lundqvist is expected back this weekend.

    The Columbus Blue Jackets feel fortunate not to need to test their depth again this season after injuries ravaged them to the count of 510 man games lost two years ago. They’ve overcome defenseman Seth Jones‘ broken foot and Ryan Murray‘s broken hand to make the playoffs for the third time in franchise history, so it doesn’t feel at all like 2014-15 in Columbus.

    “It’s just too good of a league to be able to survive that type of season,” Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said. “This year we’ve been lucky and hopefully done some things right as well where we haven’t been injured as much and knock on wood hopefully stay healthy for the rest of the year.”