Quick question. Would you dig a hole if you didn't have enough dirt to fill it? That is precisely what Leaf management would be doing if they finally trade Tomas Kaberle when his no trade clause is lifted during the off season. Most leaf fans and Leaf reporters see it as a no brainer to rid themselves of # 15. Their points (somewhat valid) are as follows: (1).Kaberle will be a sought after asset to a team this summer who falls short of the Cup. (2).He is worth a 1st round pick plus ("desperately" "needed" for a team devoid of high end prospects and early round picks) (3).He plays for a bottom feeder, and thus his talents could be better suited for a contender because (4). his age indicates that he won't be part of a rebuild. Before I trounce those opinions, I will admit Kaberle's days as the true driving force of the Leafs D are over. His age, leadership, skill set, and more importantly his 4.5 million dollar price tag, (in the post lockout NHL it is a strong indicator of level of worth to a team) has been surpassed by the face of the future in Dion Phaneuf. That being said, though all the aforementioned points that suggest Kaberle be moved do have some teeth to them, the actual fact of the matter is that Tomas Kaberle should finish out the remaining year on his contract and in fact sign on for more. While that notion might sound simply as a ploy to be a devil's advocate, it makes sense on a number of levels. Firstly, the leafs D (with the return of Komisarek and with Kaberle in it) as it stands, on paper, is a top 10 D. Komisarek and Schenn act as the stay at home physical presence. Beauchamin, (more so in the last half of this season) has shown his ability to provide a steady game and play his role on the PP. Carl Gunnarson, a well received surprise, plays the most sound game of any leaf backender. He makes very few mistakes, and he might very well become the next Kaberle, (but let's not rush that). And of course, Phaneuf provides a 'Mr. Everything' type quality that the Flames will sorely miss down the stretch and regret not having when they are on the outside looking in at season's end. Removing Kaberle from that mix automatically leaves a gaping hole- one that could not be filled. Kaberle represents a true puck moving defenceman- a key ingredient to success. Lidstrom, Niedermayer, Gonchar, and Zubov, might concur. Yes. Kaberle has struggled mightily of late (offensively and plus/minus), but this is indicative of the entire team's lost season all together and the mental effect of the "don't let the door hit you on the way out" treatment he has received. However, a rejuvinated group (similar to the one we see now) with a higher compete level and higher position in the standings will revive Kaberle (espeically if he is given the vote of confidence). Moreover, another reason to keep Kaberle in the fold, is that no minor leaguer is ready to assume responsibility as an NHL'er on the Leafs now. Whether it is Mikus, or Aulie, or Vorobiev, those players do not have Kaberle's talent and inserting them to replace him, immediately weakens the D. In addition, hot blooded Leafs fans (even more so by this point of the blog) will almost certainly suggest that only a Kaberle trade can provide the Leafs the much heralded 1st pick that will "save the franchise" (especially since the Leafs don't have one this year and they "only" have a genuine 35-40 goal sniper in 22 year old Phil Kessel to show for it). Well look no further than the likes of Jason Bonsignore or Alexandre Daigle who might feel somehwat culpable for not changing the fortunes of the Oilers and Senators when they did not measure up to the media hype (drafted 4th overall/'94 and 1st overall/'93 respectively). Yes, on the flip side, there are the examples of Stamkos, Nash, Ovechkin, and Crosby, who do pan out. However, GM's and their vast scouting systems are not going to trade their top 5 pick (even if he might beome another Daigle) to land Kaberle because they are just as in dire straits as the Leafs are. So Kaberle could garner a late 1st pick that might or likely not help the Leafs. Finally, let me blow the roof off by saying that Tomas Kaberle IS a major part of this rebuild. At 32, one might ask, how is that possible? Well, I am not talking about your typical long term rebuild. What I am peddling here is your Brian Burke type rebuild- a fast tracked 2-3 year one. Burke will attempt (via trade, free agents, etc)to turn around the fortunes in a big way within the next 2 seasons. Can't be done? Leafs standings 1991-92 (67 points) and 1992-93 (99 points)show othewise. So, if Brian Burke actually can make it happen and recreate a Leafs team that gets into the playoffs and in fact does some damage, don't you think a (by then) 34-35 year old who no longer has the pressure to be the "man" on D, but still possesses immense offensive upside and has vision and puck handling skills plus, and more importantly proclaims his allegiance to the Blue and White should be a necessary piece of the puzzle? I believe so, and Brian Burke might think so too and might cause a media frenzy by inking Kaberle rather than giving him a ticket out of town. We'll wait and see.