While it’s always fun to see where a big name free-agent signs, Leaf fans are now more interested in whether the long-awaited Kovalchuk “decision” impacts what the Leafs may do for the rest of the summer.
There is still time to move Kaberle before his personal contractual trade-window closes. And that really has to happen. The Leafs can say what they want, but after spending the better part of the last two seasons with Kaberle on the block, it would make zero sense to keep him unless they re-signed him and committed to him, so he knew he would be here—and could play while feeling confident and supported by coaches and management.
That said, Gagne is out of play now and Marc Savard may have nothing to do with any pending Kaberle deal.
The Leafs keep using their media contacts to send the message that there are many teams shopping for Kaberle. That’s a reasonable strategy, I suppose. But it does raise the expectation bar. We’re all talking about the Leafs obtaining a top-six forward, which may or not be realistic. (Versteeg certainly helps already as a versatile acquisition, though not necessarily someone who will automatically get slotted into one of those top-six positions.)
Health and money aside, and those issues can never really be set aside, both Gagne and Savard would have fit the top-six bill, but there are plenty of other teams who may well feel the same, including Tampa, obviously.
I still keep believing that Burke has something up his sleeve that none of us is anticipating. He talked about moving up in the draft last year to get Tavares and that didn’t happen. But we knew he wanted Kessel and that did happen.
The stunning one, out of the blue, was Phaneuf. That one we didn’t see coming.
There will be a move and it will be more than simply moving Kaberle, I believe.
As for the Kovalchuk deal itself, I thought this was done two weeks ago. As I posted at the time, I’m surprised he is staying in Jersey, and just as surprised that Lamoriello is paying this much to keep him. (It sounds like he turned down a more lucrative offer from his original team in Atlanta.) I didn’t like the trade for Jersey at the time and the re-signing of Kovalchuk hasn’t changed my mind. My guess is they’ll have to move useful, New-Jersey-type team players to make room for Kovalchuk. If they win a Cup, I’ll acknowledge my mistake in assessing the trade and subsequent signing.
If they don’t win a Cup with Kovalchuk, it will prove to be a disaster for the Devils.
After the honeymoon period (where everyone will say things are great and Illya has a great "team" attitude), good luck to their new coach John MacLean in dealing with a guy who was largely un-coachable in Atlanta.