Probably the most interesting story to all Leaf fans this summer is whether Tomas Kaberle will be dealt or if he will stick with the Buds. More importantly, if he is dealt, what kind of talent will Brian Burke get in return. Now that Ilya Kovalchuk has finally signed a contract (maybe I spoke too soon???), the Kaberle saga should soon come to an end.
Brian Burke has been stubborn on his view of trading Kaberle since he has taken on the Leafs GM job. Burke is looking for a young top six forward as well as a prospect in return. If he doesn’t get that he says that Kaberle will stay a Leaf. In my opinion, if Burke can get a young top six forward OR a high level prospect for Kaberle he will have done well. I don’t see how Burke can hold on to Kaberle as the Leafs have too much money tied up in their defense corp. The only way I can see Burke keeping and extending Kaberle is if he can some how trade Francois Beauchemin, which I doesn’t seem possible right now.
So if Kaberle is going to be traded, then where will he end up and what will the Leafs get back in return? I took a look at the other 29 teams and gave my thoughts on whether I think they could be in on the Kaberle sweepstakes, and what the Leafs would be looking for in return. I assigned a percentage value for each team’s likelihood in acquiring him.
**All references to team salaries and salary cap numbers are taken from capgeek.com**
1) Anaheim Mighty Ducks – 10% - The Ducks only have four proven NHL defensemen on their roster (Visnovsky, Lydman, Brookbank, Wisniewski (RFA)). With the loss of Scott Niedermayer the Ducks could use another puck mover and a partner for Visonovsky on the power play. The Ducks have over $15 million in cap space (the Duck’s won’t be a cap team) and should be able to absorb Kaberle’s modest salary. As Tomas’ preference is to play on the east coast, I do not expect him to sign an extension with the Ducks. That being said, the return for Kaberle would be limited. Although all Leaf fans would have a party in their pants if Burkie was able to pull Bobby Ryan out of Anaheim, a more realistic return would be a prospect like Peter Holland. The familiarity of Burke and Nonis with the Anaheim organization may help facilitate a deal.
2) Atlanta Thrashers – 0% - After reviewing Atlanta’s roster, the Thrashers have a very underappreciated defense. I believe Rick Dudley will focus his attention on trying to add more talent up front to go with the additions of Dusting Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd.
3) Boston Bruins – 5% - The Boston Bruins are right up against the cap and they still need to get Blake Wheeler signed and fit Tyler Seguin into their roster. The Bruins appear to have a fairly strong defense, but they are clearly lacking a power play quarterback to play alongside Zdeno Chara. Since Kaberle was essentially traded to the Bruins at the 2009 draft, the Bruins also feel that he would be a good fit for their roster. For this deal to work, the Leafs would have to take back some salary, meaning Marc Savard would be involved in the deal. However, I do not think that Savard alone would satisfy Burke, and I would suspect someone like Blake Wheeler, or a prospect like Joe Colborne to be the key to the deal on the Leafs end. The ability of the clubs to make a big deal in the past is also a plus for another trade between the two teams.
4) Buffalo Sabres – 10% - The Buffalo Sabres have been another heavily rumoured team to be chasing Tomas Kaberle and why not…the Sabres have been lacking a power play quarterback since they lost Brian Campbell. If a deal were to get done, I feel as though the Sabres would be looking to move one of Derek Roy or Tim Connolly in return. I am not sure if Burke would be interested in either player, but if he also could get someone like Zack Kassian thrown in it’s probably a deal he would make. I only think the Sabres would be willing to trade a prospect like Kassian if Kaberle were to agree to an extension.
5) Calgary Flames – 0% - The Calgary Flames cap situation is a huge mess and I don’t see them looking to make a move for a defenseman like Kaberle, although Darryl Sutter has been known to make a mind boggling move (Olli Jokinen 2?) now and again.
6) Carolina Hurricanes – 0% - The Hurricanes are going to be a budget team who are going to build with young players.
7) Chicago Blackhawks – 5% - The only way a deal can be made with the Hawks is if it involves some kind of salary dump coming back to the Leafs. And the salary has to be one that gets buried in the minors as the Leafs don’t have much cap space themselves. The deal that comes to my mind is a Kaberle exchange for Patrick Sharp and Cristobal Huet. The Hawks get about $5 million in cap space plus Kaberle for one year. The Leafs get a high end forward and can bury Huet in the minors. However, the Hawks have recently made it clear that Sharp is not going anywhere, and the Hawks could also bury Huet in the minors if they wanted to rid themselves of his contract.
8) Colorado Avalanche – 0% - The Avalanche have almost $24 million in cap space and need to add some salary and a few bodies to get to the cap floor. However, I don’t see the Avalanche giving up assets to add a veteran with only one year left on his deal.
9) Columbus – 10% - The Blue Jackets have been linked to Kaberle in the past as they have been seeking a puck moving power play defensemen; it seems like since they have entered the league. They have the cap space and there is pressure on GM Scott Howson to make the playoffs. The Leafs would be looking at someone like Jakub Voracek or even Nikita Filatov in return.
10) Dallas Stars – 5% - The Dallas Stars have been open that they aren’t going to be spending anywhere near the cap. They currently have over $44 million assigned,along with some significant RFA’s like James Neal still to sign. Although I am sure the Leafs would love to get their hands on Neal, I think that Joe Nieuwendyk would be more interested in losing a salary like Mike Ribiero. Although Ribiero is highly skilled, he doesn’t seem like a Burke player and I think a more realistic scenario would be a swap for Brad Richards. Either way, I don’t think a deal with the Stars is likely.
11) Detroit Red Wings – 0% - The wings have as solid a top four defensemen as anyone in the league. I don’t see them having any interest.
12) Edmonton Oilers – 0% - The Oilers are rebuilding with youth and are trying hard to get rid of one of there expensive blue liners (Souray), so I don’t see them being involved.
13) Florida Panthers – 0% - I can’t see the Panthers being involved here unless the Leafs were willing to take Rostislav Olesz back in return, which I don’t think is plausible.
14) LA Kings – 5% - After losing out on the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes the Kings will be looking to make a splash and they have the cap space to do so. The Kings could use another weapon on their power play to go along with Drew Doughty. The Leafs would likely want Wayne Simmonds in return, but the Kings love this kid and I doubt they’d give him up. That being said the Leafs would most likely be looking at a prospect like Colton Teubert or Andrei Loktionov.
15) Minnesota Wild – 0% - The Wild have been rumored to be in on Kaberle but I just don’t see it. They have a solid top four and some good puck movers in Zidlicky, Burns, and Barker.
16) Montreal – 0% - They may be interested in Kaberle, but I don’t think they have anything that would interest the Leafs.
17) Nashville Predators – 0% - The Predators have been a defensemen factory over the years and I don’t see that changing in the near future. The Predators let both Dan Hamhuis and Denis Grebeshkov walk away this summer so I don’t see them pursuing Kaberle.
18) New Jersey Devils – 0% - The Devil’s made the biggest splash in the free agent season by signing Ilya Kovalchuk, but they also managed to sign Henrik Tallinder and Anton Volchenkov. They are still missing a puck mover on the back end, but sweet Lou will really need to work some magic to pry Kaberle from Toronto.
19) New York Islanders – 0% - Although the Islanders need to take on some salary to reach the cap floor, I can’t see them giving up any young assets to do it.
20) New York Rangers – 5% - The Rangers are always involved in some form when a big name player is available. If they are willing to bury Wade Redden in the minors then Kaberle may be in their cross hairs. The Leafs would be looking for either Brandon Dubinsky or Ryan Callahan in return.
21) Ottawa Senators – 0% - After signing Sergei Gonchar I can’t see the Sens looking to add another similar defenseman in Kaberle.
22) Philadelphia Flyers – 0% - After adding Andrei Meszaros this summer the Flyers back end is extremely expensive and they do not need to add someone like Kaberle.
23) Phoenix Coyotes – 0% - I don’t think the NHL would be interested in adding a $4 million plus defenseman to their roster.
24) Pittsburgh Penguins – 0% - After adding Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek this past off season, the Penguins are going to be done adding to their back end.
25) San Jose Sharks – 20% - It is obvious that the Sharks are looking to add to their back end after losing Rob Blake to retirement and losing out on signing Niklas Hjalmarsson. Although I doubt the Sharks would want to trade Devin Setoguchi, he is an RFA and his salary demands may not match what they are willing to pay. The Leafs have been linked to Ryan Clowe, and I also think Logan Couture would be someone that they might want to get their hands on.
26) St. Louis Blues – 0% - It’s been known that the Blues are looking to reduce their payroll and build from within.
27) Tampa Bay Lightning – 10% - The Lightning traded Andrei Meszaros this summer and added UFA defenseman Pavel Kubina. Kubina and Kaberle were good friends while playing in Toronto, and Stevie Y may be looking to add another puck moving blue liner to his squad. After trading for Simon Gagne, the Lightning are stacked with their top 6 forwards and they may want to rid themselves of a contract like Ryan Malone’s as they prepare for Steven Stamkos becoming an RFA after this season.
28) Vancouver Canucks – 0% - After adding Keith Ballard and Dan Hamhuis the Canucks have no need for Kaberle.
29) Washington Capitals – 15% - I’m sure the Capitals would love to add a veteran puck moving defenseman like Kaberle to take some of the pressure off of Mike Green. And since they appear to be having trouble signing RFA forward Tomas Fleischmann, he seems to be the logical guy going the other way.
After reviewing every team in the league, their cap situations, their needs, and what they have in terms of assets to deal, I believe that the San Jose Sharks and the Washington Capitals are the most likely destination for Tomas Kaberle.