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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    Patrick thinks he can make immediate NHL jump with Flyers

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    The New Jersey Devils opted for Nico Hischier over Nolan Patrick, but time will be the ultimate judge in that debate. The Philadelphia Flyers also might see their guy make a more immediate jump to the NHL.

    Patrick made it clear: he wants to go straight from the 2017 NHL Draft to training camp to opening night in 2017-18.

    “Yeah, I think after a good summer of training, that’s my goal,” Patrick said.

    The second pick of the draft noted not just his size, but also his two-way acumen when explaining why he believes he’s ready for the immediate turnaround. Patrick also brings up an interesting point: he’s already experienced three years of junior. He didn’t come out and say it, but the implication would be that his development might stagnate against lesser competition.

    MORE: Check out all 31 first-round picks here

    CSN Philly’s Tim Panaccio got that same sense from Patrick in a one-on-one interview, and noted that the consensus is that he’ll make a difference from Game 1.

    Scouts are unanimous in predicting Patrick will play this season in the NHL. He turns 19 during training camp.

    One might read the decision to trade Brayden Schenn to the St. Louis Blues as the Flyers’ way of agreeing that Patrick is probably ready, yet GM Ron Hextall wouldn’t just come out and say it. While praising Patrick, Hextall noted that he’ll need to “get to work” and earn a spot.

    The odds seem to be in Patrick’s favor, but perhaps it’s better to see him battle for it.

    Either way, don’t expect a long wait.

    After major changes, Bowman thinks Blackhawks are in ‘good spot’

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    CHICAGO — Stan Bowman received a lot of kudos for getting the old Blackhawks defense together for another kick at the can.

    But the way it played out, bringing back two aging veterans in Brian Campbell and Johnny Oduya was a mistake by the general manager. The magic just couldn’t be recreated, and Chicago was swept in the first round by the Nashville Predators.

    Then came the offseason changes. Not just on the blue line, either. Brandon Saad is back, while Artemi Panarin is gone. Marian Hossa is gone, too — a huge loss for the ‘Hawks, even if he can be put on LTIR.

    So the forward group is going to look quite different next season.

    The blue line could look very different, though. Oduya and Campbell are both unrestricted free agents and may not be back. Trevor van Riemsdyk was lost in the expansion draft. And last but not least, Niklas Hjalmarsson is a Coyote now, traded to Arizona for d-man Connor Murphy.

    In other words, of the six defensemen who lost to the Predators, only Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are still under contract in Chicago.

    “A lot of stuff going on,” Bowman said Friday at United Center. “Sometimes, change is good. You have to make some tough decisions. But at the same time, we’re really excited about our team next year.”

    Much will be expected of Murphy, a 24-year-old who’s been toiling in Arizona anonymity since being drafted 20th overall in 2011.

    “Connor’s a little bit of a different player (than Hjalmarsson),” said Bowman. “Obviously, he’s a bit bigger, he plays probably a more physical game. But he’s a good skater and he’s six years younger. It’s really hard to find young defensemen like that. He’s got a great contract, too. He’s a guy we’re going to have for a long time.”

    Michal Kempny and Gustav Forsling will also be expected to take on bigger roles in 2017-18.

    “It’s up to them to take hold of it, but I think the opportunity is going to be there for them,” said Bowman. “It’s time to give these guys a chance to grow and take on bigger responsibilities.”

    Speaking of young defensemen, the Blackhawks added another to their stable Friday, drafting Henri Jokiharju with the 29th overall pick.

    “Henri’s a player we’ve been high on all year,” said Bowman. “A right-shot defenseman. Those are a commodity in today’s game. It’s hard to find them. He plays a modern style of hockey. Great skill-set, good skater, can handle the puck, make plays. I guess what you would term the modern-day defenseman.”

    As for Bowman, he believes his big moves have been made. He promised changes, and changes he delivered.

    “I think we’re in a good spot,” he said.

    Related: Blackhawks sign Czech defenseman Jan Rutta

    Penguins spend big to get bigger, land Reaves from Blues

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    Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford said he wanted to add some snarl to protect stars such as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. You won’t find many – if any – forces more intimidating than Ryan Reaves.

    That’s who the Penguins reportedly acquired in a trade from the St. Louis Blues, who suddenly became very busy toward the end of the 2017 NHL Draft’s first round on Friday.

    MORE: Blues acquire Brayden Schenn for Jori Lehtera, picks

    Moments ago, Gary Bettman announced the details of the move.

    Penguins receive: Reaves, 51st pick of 2017

    Blues receive: Oskar Sundqvist, 31st pick of 2017

    Penguins’ perspective

    Rutherford believed that the NHL was allowing teams to take liberties with star players, particularly Crosby and Malkin. Even after winning consecutive Stanley Cups, it was clearly something important to him.

    Rutherford reiterated that thought after the move.

    One can debate how much an enforcer such as Reaves really “deters” such behavior, especially since he won’t be on the ice with star players in most close situations. There’s little denying that he’s a fearsome fighter, with six in 2016-17 and as many as 10 in a single season.

    Reaves carries a $1.125 million cap hit that expires after 2017-18.

    A busy night for Doug Armstrong

    Moments ago, the Blues drafted Kim Klostin with the 31st pick, grabbing a player some expected to go much earlier in the first round.

    They also acquired Oskar Sundqvist, the 81st pick of the 2012 NHL Draft. The 23-year-old was unable to score a point in 10 games with the Penguins last season, but he was productive in the AHL, scoring 20 goals and 46 points.

    Blues GM Doug Armstrong absorbed some serious criticism for protecting Reaves instead of David Perron, but now both players are gone. One would assume that’s likely by design, although it’s also possible that the Penguins simply provided an offer he couldn’t refuse.

    Armstrong made another big splash by sending Jori Lehtera and draft picks to the Philadelphia Flyers for Brayden Schenn. Getting the 31st pick was helpful for the Blues after they sent the 27th choice to Philly.

    Flyers send Schenn to Blues, take on Lehtera’s contract

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    Flyers GM Ron Hextall made a big splash at the end of the draft’s first round on Friday night, sending forward Brayden Schenn to St. Louis in exchange for Jori Lehtera, the 27th overall pick and a conditional first-round pick in 2018.

    Schenn, 25, is coming off two pretty productive years with the Flyers, in which he scored 26 and 25 goals. He just wrapped the first of a four-year, $20.5 million deal — one that carries a $5.125M cap hit.

    It’s a big get for the Blues, who now boast Schenn, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Robby Fabbri, Paul Stastny and Alex Steen at forward.

    That hit is largely why Lehtera is on his way to Philly. Coming off a “bad” season in which he struggled with injury and healthy scratches, there was speculation he’d be made available at the expansion draft — which he was — and when he wasn’t selected by Vegas, the likelihood of a trade was high.

    Lehtera makes $4.7 million annually, through 2019.

    With the 27th overall selection, the Flyers took Sault Ste. Marie center Morgan Frost. Frost finished fourth on the Greyhounds in scoring this year and had a strong playoff, with five goals and 11 points in 11 games. It was the second center Philly scored in the first round, having previously selected Nolan Patrick with the No. 2 overall selection.

    And here are the conditions around that ’18 pick: