Right now, plenty of Leaf fans are wondering about what sort of return MIGHT Brian Burke get for Thomas Kaberle once the trade window opens on his contract. Last year, he was a potentially valuable chip. In December 2009, he was playing some of the best hockey of his career and many hoped that he might be traded to speed along a re-build if the Leafs could not get back into the Play-offs after a dismal start. Around the trade deadline, all the distracting rumors seemed to throw him off his game and he coasted to a very bland - if not invisible end to the season. When the season ended, pundits talked of the Leafs hoping to land a pick in the first round or a budding first-line player or blue chip prospect for Kabby before the NHL Draft this summer.
Is this realistic? In November 2009, without a doubt, but in May 2010, some things are different.
Kaberle has a year remaining on a fairly reasonable contract. For the money he is paid, he produces well. That one-year though is a big point for GMs though. This past season, guys in their last year were being shopped and worried about as early as September, others were considered to be unwanted head-aches if they stalled at negotiating extensions. If you consider that, then you will know that few GMs will consider Kaberle's skills as a bargain, if they know that they have months of contract negotiations ahead after trading for him. Some may be willing to chance it, but most will tell Burke, that they will come closer to Toronto's asking price if Kaberle is signed or willing to sign for at least one more extra year.
Kaberle has better skills than many of the top UFA defensemen this summer, but those guys should have an agreeable contract term if they sign. In the end, that is going to be a prime point for any team that Toronto tries to trade with.
So, Burke has every reason to try to negotiate an extension with Kaberle now, and tell him that the Leafs intend to set a lower price for dealing him, with out the extension. If he signs on for an extra year or two, at about the same money, then Burke has more incentive to keep Kaberle if his higher asking price is not met.
The bottom line is that both side are better off if a contract extension comes this month. Hopefully, there is something in the works.