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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    With just one win in six, there’s ‘lots of concern’ for Kings

    GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 26:  Drew Doughty #8 of the Los Angeles Kings during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on December 26, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. The Kings defeated the Coyotes 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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    After last night’s 1-0 loss to the Ducks, the Kings found themselves sitting two points back of Calgary for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference.

    Not a comfortable place to be with just 24 games left in the season — and now, the Kings are feeling that lack of comfort in the dressing room.

    “Oh yeah, lots of concern,” Doughty said when asked about the atmosphere, per LA Kings Insider. “We’re still fully confident that we can turn it on now and get back in to that playoff spot that we want to be in but the longer we wait, the harder it’s going to be.

    “Right now we’re losing points and other teams are winning games that aren’t playing against us. Yeah, we need to get on track immediately.”

    One of the teams Doughty alluded to is the surging Jets, who moved a point ahead of L.A. with a win over Ottawa last night. The Kings still have four games in hand on Winnipeg, but the advantage won’t matter without some positive results.

    Following a 1-0 OT win over Philly on Feb. 4, the Kings had a 27-21-4 record, good for 58 points and sole possession of the first wild card spot.

    Since then, they’ve gone 1-5-0.

    The Kings have lost in all sorts of ways, too. There were consecutive 5-0 blowouts to the Caps and Bolts. Things have since tightened up — including a 3-2 loss to Florida on Saturday, and last night’s aforementioned defeat to Anaheim — but the end results have all been the same.

    Losses.

    Given there’s been so many different types of defeats, it’s not surprising many different targets have been criticized. Head coach Darryl Sutter pinned last Thursday’s 5-3 defeat to Arizona on goalie Peter Budaj, and Sutter alluded to the struggling defensive pair of Alec Martinez and Jake Muzzin (who were split up) after Sunday’s game.

    Again, from Kings Insider:

    On whether he got what he was looking for from the changes to defensive pairings:
    No. We made a mistake on the goal. They had an easy turnover in the neutral zone. We moved guys around. Quite honest, we’ve got a couple defensemen that’ve had really tough times this season, so we split ‘em up tonight.

    Debate plus-minus all you like, but Martinez is minus-15 this year while Muzzin’s a team-worst minus-17. And this is on a team that has a virtually even goal differential (143 for, 145 against) and routinely outshoots its opponents (averaging 30.5 shots for per game, just 25.7 allowed).

    The Kings will have a chance to get back in the win column on Tuesday, when they visit Colorado to take on the lowly Avs. After that, the club has just four games left before the March 1 trade deadline.

    Is Beleskey on the outs in Boston?

    BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 20:  Matt Beleskey #39 of the Boston Bruins takes a shot against New Jersey Devils  during the third period at TD Garden on October 20, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bruins defeat the Devils 2-1.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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    It’s been a tough second season in Boston for Matt Beleskey.

    Beleskey, signed to a five-year, $19 million deal two summers ago, has just two goals through 33 games this season and, on Sunday, was back in the press box as a healthy scratch for the Bruins’ 2-1 OT win over San Jose. He’d previously been parked as a spectator back in November, under then-head coach Claude Julien.

    Things haven’t gotten much better under new bench boss Bruce Cassidy. Prior to the bye week, Cassidy played Beleskey a team-low 7:37 in a 4-0 win over Montreal, and that came after Beleskey sat as a healthy scratch against Vancouver.

    As mentioned, it’s been a frustrating campaign overall, as Beleskey also missed 23 games this year with a knee injury. That obviously played a big role in the 28-year-old’s decreased production, which has to be frustrating given he scored 15 and 22 goals in each of his previous two campaigns.

    Which begs the question — could he be on the move?

    From the Boston Globe:

    With the NHL’s March 1 trade deadline fast approaching, the 28-year-old Beleskey and his $3.8 million cap hit would be a prime for a swap, although he has a limited no-trade provision in his contract. Hired on for a five-year, $19 million deal in July 2015, he has not provided the playing edge or the offensive numbers hoped for when new GM Don Sweeney coaxed him away from the Anaheim Ducks.

    Arizona could make for a prime partner in a Beleskey swap. The Coyotes likely will move Radim Vrbata, the 35-year-old Czech winger, who is on an expiring contract (with a $3.25 million cap hit). The Desert Dogs would end up with a winger under contract control for three more seasons and it would allow Beleskey, who scored 22 goals in his final season with the Ducks, a fresh start to try to rediscover his offensive input.

    Under GM John Chayka, Arizona has developed a reputation as a place where unwanted contracts go to die. The Coyotes picked up the remainder of Pavel Datsyuk’s deal with Detroit at last year’s draft and, shortly thereafter, took on the remainder of Dave Bolland‘s contract with Florida in a trade that landed Lawson Crouse.

    This trend carried over from the Don Maloney era. Maloney acquired the remainder of Chris Pronger‘s contract from Philadelphia at the 2015 draft.

    Laine’s big week gets Jets back into playoff race

    WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 13: Patrik Laine #29, playing his first NHL game, of the Winnipeg Jets celebrates scoring his first NHL goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during NHL action on October 22, 2016 at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba. At top is Mathieu Perreault #85 of the Winnipeg Jets. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images)
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    Patrik Laine is the NHL’s first star of the week.

    In four games, the Winnipeg rookie scored five goals to help the Jets to a 3-0-1 record and propel them back into the playoff race.

    Laine also had three assists. With eight points total, he beat out Toronto’s Nazem Kadri and Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, the second and third stars of the week, respectively.

    From the NHL:

    [Laine] recorded his third career hat trick, including the winning goal, in a 5-2 triumph over the Dallas Stars Feb. 14. In doing so, Laine became the first player in NHL history to register three hat tricks before his 19th birthday as well as the first rookie to collect three hat tricks in one season since 1992-93. He scored again in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins Feb. 16. Laine then finished the week with consecutive multi-point efforts, notching 1-1—2 in a 3-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens Feb. 18 and two assists in a 3-2 win against the Ottawa Senators Feb. 19. The 18-year-old Tampere, Finland, native paces rookies with 52 points in 54 games this season and also shares third place in the entire NHL – as well as the rookie lead – with 28 goals.

    The Jets are now only one point back of Calgary for the second wild-card spot in the West; however, the Flames do hold three games in hand.

    Streaking Blues get Stastny back tonight

    UNIONDALE, NY - DECEMBER 06:  Paul Stastny #26 of the St. Louis Blues skates against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on December 6, 2014 in Uniondale, New York. The Blues defeated the Islanders 6-4.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Saturday’s loss to Buffalo notwithstanding, St. Louis has been on fire lately under new head coach Mike Yeo. The Blues are 7-2 in their last nine, and will get a big piece of the lineup back this evening when they host Florida at Scottrade.

    Paul Statsny, who’s missed the last four games with a lower-body injury, will draw in for the first time since Feb. 9, per NHL.com’s Lou Korac.

    What’s more, Stastny will be immediately reunited on the club’s top line between Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko.

    Stastny had been on fire since the dismissal of former head coach Ken Hitchcock, racking up six points over his last five games played (in which the Blues went 4-1-0).

    The 31-year-old currently sits fourth on the team in assists and points, while averaging 19:25 TOI per night, so he’s clearly a big part of the St. Louis attack. And based on his form prior to getting hurt, it was clear things were clicking with Steen and Tarasenko — which should make for an exciting test tonight against the red-hot Panthers.