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Leafs running out of time to move Kaberle
Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke has until Aug. 15, which is when Kaberle’s “no-trade” clause goes back into effect, to potentially find a new home for the defenseman.
As expected, this has generated renewed interest in Kaberle’s fate as well as prompting speculation over potential trade partners willing to pay Burke’s asking price, believed to be a top-six forward (preferably a center) and either a first-round pick in the 2011 entry draft or a top prospect.
The number of supposedly interested teams varies depending upon the source, running from between six to 12 clubs thought to have varying degrees of interest in the long-time Toronto blueliner.
Those clubs include the New Jersey Devils, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues, Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers, Buffalo Sabres, Columbus Blue Jackets and Tampa Bay Lightning.
It appears unlikely the Devils could pursue Kaberle as their focus seemingly remains on getting superstar forward Ilya Kovalchuk signed to a contract the league won’t reject.
The Kings have the salary cap space (roughly $12 million) and depth in promising young talent to offer up in return, but recent reports out of Los Angeles suggested management might look to the youth within their organization for defensive depth.
Sharks GM Doug Wilson hinted at landing an experienced puck-moving defenseman but might not be keen to part with one of his top six forwards.
Burke is the former general manager of the Ducks and drafted Bobby Ryan in 2005, leading some Leafs fans to hope for a Kaberle-for-Ryan swap, particularly since the latter remains unsigned by the Ducks. But Anaheim GM Bob Murray continues to insist he has no intention of moving Ryan.
The Stars and Blues are what’s known as “budget teams,” clubs which operate under a considerably lower cap ceiling than the league’s $59.4 million. While they might’ve made inquiries, it’s believed they’re not willing to acquire a defenseman whose stated preference is to play in the Eastern Conference and who could depart next summer via unrestricted free agency.
Rule out the Red Wings as a potential destination as their defense corps for next season, led by Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart, is already set. Any lingering thoughts of the Wings dealing for Kaberle were dispelled with their recent signing of veteran Ruslan Salei to a one-year contract.
The cap-strapped Bruins have been rumored for some time to be trying to peddle center Marc Savard but Burke was quoted back in late June claiming he had no interest in the play-making center. If Burke holds true to that comment, there’s no deal to be had there as the Bruins would need to make nearly a dollar-for-dollar swap to fit Kaberle’s $4.25 million salary under their cap.
The Flyers were reportedly very interested in Kaberle about two years ago and attempted to trade for him. Since then they’ve acquired Chris Pronger, Matt Carle and Andrej Meszaros. So given their current blueline depth, the Flyers have no room for Kaberle nor as rumored are they willing to part with forward Jeff Carter to land him.
The Sabres acquiring Kaberle would certainly be out of character for their front office which, as a rule, doesn’t make any significant trades or free-agent signings during the offseason. There’s a first time for everything but Sabres fans would be wise not to hold their breath in anticipation of Kaberle joining their team by Aug. 15.
A recent report in the Columbus Dispatch observed the Blue Jackets had “kicked the tires” on a Kaberle swap but suggested unless the Leafs lowered their asking price, the Jackets weren’t interested.
Lightning GM Steve Yzerman is reportedly mulling the possibility of adding another veteran defenseman and his bold moves this summer have the Bolts linked to Kaberle in the rumor mill. However, Yzerman’s bringing back puck-moving defenseman Pavel Kubina earlier this summer likely rules out the prospect of chasing Kaberle.
The free-agent market remains an option for many of these teams if they’re seeking affordable defensemen. Granted, those notables still available – Marc-Andre Bergeron, Willie Mitchell, Paul Mara, Brendan Witt, Andreas Lilja and Lukas Krajicek – aren’t of the same caliber as Kaberle, but they at least wouldn’t cost as much in salary. Plus, teams wouldn’t have to give up other assets to land them.
Burke has repeatedly said he’s not actively shopping Kaberle, has no problem with the blueliner returning to the lineup this season and might even considered signing him to a contract extension.
The Leafs general manager won’t trade Kaberle simply for the sake of doing so and if he doesn’t receive any offers to his liking he’s not going to lower his asking price. While several teams have undoubtedly expressed some interest it is possible there might not be a market for Kaberle at the Leafs' asking price.
While it’s still possible Kaberle could be dealt, it appears just as likely he could remain a Leaf after Aug. 1.
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