It’s funny. Throughout last season, I posted a number of articles relating to the fate of now former Maple Leaf Tomas Kaberle.
We all know the Kaberle saga: how the venerable, long-time Leaf defenseman was never “in favour” in the Wilson/Burke regime. How they tried on various occasions to move him. Potential deals fell through. Then his “no-trade” clause would kick in and the Leafs could do nothing, again.
There was the usual, “I don’t ask players to waive their no-trade clauses” comment from Burke. But there was also the annual trade-deadline back-room negotiation with Kaberle’s agent to see if Tomas was indeed willing to move.
Then in the summer of 2010, Tomas’ dad (click to read the story) got into the mix, suggesting Tomas and Wilson were not exactly close.
On and on it went. The seldom-spoken (openly, at least) but unhealthy relationship didn’t help the Leafs, and didn’t help, in my view, Kaberle’s play on the ice. I believe a player needs to feel truly wanted and appreciated to perform at his best.
Finally, the deal with the Bruins was finalized and gave Boston what they thought was the last piece of their playoff puzzle. It didn’t turn out that way, as Kaberle’s impact on the Bruin power-play was minimal, and his role, as the playoffs progressed, was tiny as a 6th defenseman. He played less than 10 minutes in Game 7 of the Cup finals against Vancouver.
Yes, the Bruins won the Cup, and I was pulling for Kabby because I have a fondness for him and respected the way he conducted himself during his long tenure in a Maple Leaf uniform. But I have a difficult time arguing he was an impact guy with the Bruins. He simply wasn’t. I’ll say he helped a bit, but that’s about all.
So the Bruins got a Cup (with a little help from Seguin, too) but it’s hard to argue that, long-term, the Kaberle deal looks anything but awfully good for the Leafs.
For all the angst I felt—because while Kaberle often frustrated me as a Leaf, I did admire the guy—it’s kind of ironic how things have turned out.
Some Leaf fans talked of Kabby returning as a free agent this past summer, but he was not a Wilson/Burke player, so that wasn’t going to happen, at any price, especially given his age, his history with Wilson and the perception that he was part of the (over-hyped, in my view) “blue and white disease”.
But the irony for me, is this: as I was developing a story a couple of days ago, I had to sit back and ask myself, “Just where did Kaberle go this past summer? Did anybody sign him?”
It took a while, but then I recalled that yes, indeed, he did get signed (Carolina, right?). And he signed for a shockingly high price. (Was it over 4 million a year for two years? That was very close to his contract with the Leafs, which was a good signing by Ferguson in the cap era.)
Wow. I honestly thought that, after the playoffs, he would be lucky to get two million a season.
But he is still a much-sought after “puck-moving defenseman”, so he found a home. I just wonder if he will be like a pitcher past him prime, paid for what he was five years ago, but no longer.
In any event, I just find it amazing that I spent so much time last season contemplating the Kaberle “situation”, and months later, I could not remember where—or if—he even signed as a free-agent.
Time heals most sports wounds, I guess.