I remember Brian Burke explaining a while back that, under the cap system, you don’t have to trade an expiring contract to get an asset before someone walks away in free agency. As he said, he learned from some colleagues in the National Football League that there is benefit in simply saving the cap space associated with the departing contract, and that can be significant. (Plus, the player is contributing to your team right through the season.)
Now, in the case of Tomas Kaberle, though, the Leafs would only save a little over four million on the cap, if I’m not mistaken, should he leave. John Ferguson Jr. did well in signing Kaberle to a long-term deal for what turned out to be a modest sum for an established puck-moving defenseman.
Unfortunately, the current regime has wanted Kaberle gone, as best I can tell, from the time they arrived. He has never seemed to fit what
was looking for, and despite his on-again off-again no-trade status, Burke has tried to move him several times over the past two seasons. Wilson
Management has the right to handle these situations as they choose, but to me, this one has been a mess from the get-go. Kaberle has not played his best hockey in the
era, though he still brings his usual assortment of skills to the party many nights. But it just hasn’t been a good match. I don’t know how someone can play their best when they are constantly aware of the team’s desire to move them, regardless of what management has claimed publicly. Wilson
My comments on this go back quite a way. I would, on a personal level, like to see someone like Kaberle retire as a Maple Leaf, having played for no other team. But I remember posting last spring that Kaberle either needs real love from the Leafs, or they need to move him. and ….then in August, when Kaberle's Dad had been quoted about his son's apparent unhappiness in Toronto, I wrote on this subject again (click on the links to see the earlier stories). Both pieces that suggested that Leafs could have—and should have—done something by now with Kaberle.
Yes, they could keep him until the end of the season, but if the team does not continue to make significant strides in the standings in the next two weeks, what is the point? It’s clear he is prepared to leave this time if the Leafs want to move him, despite being a loyal Maple Leaf lo these many years.
But I think the single reason Kaberle will finally be dealt is that after the many times is this: Burke has discussed this subject and indicated on different occasions that the market would improve for Kaberle- and it never did. He does not want to see a player he has tried to tried to deal for years simply walk away and get nothing in return. Yes, as I alluded to at the beginning of this post, he would save money on the cap from that 4 million contract, but would Toronto be able to sign a player as good as Kaberle for that price? (How much did Burke pay for Komisarek, who has toughness but nowhere near Kaberle’s puck-moving or offensive abilities?)
Burke is proud- and smart. He knows that the fan market is still split on the Kessel trade, and many feel he totally misplayed his hand there. He can proclaim that he doesn’t care what the media or fans think, but whether we believe him or not, Burke doesn’t want to watch a press conference on July 1 when Kaberle signs as a free agent elsewhere with much ballyhoo and Burke in turn has nothing to show for it—especially when there is no first-round draft choice to look forward to this coming June.
I think the only thing that changes this scenario is if the Leafs build on their current run of four wins in the past five games. If they have a real shot at the playoffs after years of missing out, would you dare move a guy like Kaberle?
As much as I'd like to see Tomas on the Leaf blueline for some time yet, I sense it won't happen. I'm guessing he'll be long gone for a young prospect (a guy on someone's roster right now) that may be able to find the back of the net for years to come.