July 14, 2009.
With Tomas Kaberle being the last of the “Muskoka Five” to remain with the Toronto it is time to turn the chapter and move him and put the past Leaf horrors behind us. Mats Sundin, Darcy Tucker, Bryan McCabe and now Pavel Kubina are all but a distant memory leaving us with just Grant Exelby, Colin Stuart and Mike Van Ryn to show for what, just a few seasons ago, was the heart and soul of the Maple Leaf squad.
Kaberle, as rumor has it, was all but gone at the 2008 NHL trade deadline to Philadelphia for 46 goal scorer Jeff Carter and the Flyers first round pick in the 2008 entry draft (later dealt to Washington who selected defenseman John Carlson). Then at the 2009 draft Kaberle was rumored to be almost gone again this team in a deal with the rival Bruins that would bring in the fifth overall pick in the 2006 draft and last years 36 goal scorer Phil Kessel who at the moment is at odds with Boston on a new contract. Other teams have been whispered to be talking to Leafs General Manager Brian Burke for the services of Kaberle including the likes of St. Louis, Los Angeles and Chicago.
At only thirty-one years of age Kaberle still has many productive years ahead of him and has been one of the most consistent Leaf players over the past decade. With Burke bringing adding free agents Mike Komisarek, Francois Beauchemin and trading for Exelby to go along with last years rookie sensation Luke Schenn, Ian White, Jeff Finger, Anton Stralman and Van Ryn Toronto can now deal a defenseman the caliber of Kaberle without leaving themselves with a huge hole on the backend.
Former GM John Ferguson Jr. can take most of the blame signing these players to their “no trade” and “no movement” contracts but these five players could have made things a lot easier for Burke’s retooling plan if they had of seen the writing on the wall and agreed to be moved at the deadline. The writing was on the wall when interim GM Cliff Fletcher asked each player to be dealt, now former Leaf star players have left the organization on a sour note that all Leafs fans have seen before with legends such as Darryl Sittler and Dave Keon. Mats Sundin finally chose to return to the NHL with the Vancouver Canucks but could not shake off the rust in time to provide the ‘Nucks with enough to get them to the cup final. Bryan McCabe, who had been booed mercilessly in his last season in a Leaf uniform, had an okay season with the Florida Panthers but was far from the 50+ points he registered in three straight seasons with the Buds. Darcy Tucker was just a disaster for the Colorado Avalanche scoring his lowest point total in more than a decade.
It is hard for Leaf Nation to look at what might have been. Sundin was rumored to be dealt to the Habs for Chris Higgins, and a first, second, and third round draft picks (Greg Nemisz, Danny Kristo and Steve Quailer). Carter, Higgins, 2009 first round draftee Nazem Kadri, along with Euro young studs Mikhail Grabovski, Jiri Tlusty and Nikolai Kulemin would make up a potentially explosive top six forwards up front.
Does Kaberle really want to leave Toronto the way his buddies did?? Toronto fans are starved for a Stanley Cup parade down Yonge Street and while we do appreciate Kabs’ time as a Leaf the new truculent and tougher TO squad would be better served moving forward without him; before the ghosts of Larry Murphy return and the boo birds hone in on a new target in the Czech defender.