Leafs Sign Defenseman Brett Lebda—Is A Kaberle Deal Close?

July 8th, 2010 33 Comments

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke continued to put his stamp on the club, signing unrestricted free agent defenseman Brett Lebda to a two-year, $2.9 million contract on Wednesday.

Lebda’s contract will pay him $1,450,000 in each of the next two years, either in the AHL or the NHL.

Lebda, who spent parts of the past five seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, stands 5’9” and weighs in at 195 pounds—not exactly your prototypical “Burke” player.

Through 63 games with the Red Wings in 2009-10 Lebda posted one goal and eight points to go along with his minus-2 rating.

His best season came in 2006-07 where he scored five goals and added 13 assists for a career high 18 points to go along with his impressive plus+16 rating.

Originally an undrafted player, Lebda, 28, brings a little playoff experience with him having played 62 career Stanley Cup games with the Red Wings, which also includes a Stanley Cup victory in 2007-08.

The obvious question is this: why, with seven NHL calibre defensemen already in the fold, would Burke deem it necessary to sign an eighth defenseman?

Lebda offers Burke some insurance if by chance he can find a taker for Tomas Kaberle—a player that has long been rumored to be on the block.

Does Lebda bring the same skill-set as Kaberle? Absolutely not!

In the event that Kaberle is finally traded, Lebda will fill the role of the Leafs seventh defenseman, a role he should flourish in.

Filling Kaberle’s shoes will fall on the shoulders of the collective group of Leafs’ defensemen, including Dion Phaneuf, Mike Komisarek, Francois Beauchemin and the hard shooting Carl “Uzi” Gunnarsson.

Burke may also be covering the bases in the event of Jeff Finger being banished to the Maple Leafs AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies, a move that would give the club an additional  $3.5 million in cap room—cap room that could be spent signing a legitimate top six forward.

According to capgeek.com, the Leafs now have a total of 22 players under contract for the 2010-11 season with a paltry $1,125,833 left in cap room.

The stern reality is this: unless Burke can trim some money from this roster he will be heading into the 2010-11 season with one of Kris Versteeg, Nazem Kadri or Tyler Bozak as the Maple Leafs number one centre—not exactly comforting, is it Leaf fans?

The Lebda signing signals to me that Burke is very close to making a major move—probably the Kaberle deal.

Moving Kaberle and his $4,250,000 salary combined with sending Finger and his $3.5 million salary down the the AHL, minus the $1,450,000 that Lebda will be paid this season will leave Burke with approximately $7.5 million with which to take on a big money contract.

You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that Burke looks set to make a deal any day now—one that should net the Leafs the coveted top-flight forward they need.

Hold tight Leaf fans, it’s about to get interesting around here.

Until next time,

Peace!

33 Comments

  1. David says:

    All I have to say, Burke better knows what he’s doing. If they signed Lebda and keep Kaberle, I would be speechless, while losing complete faith in Brian Burke’s judgment. I honestly hope they trade/sign at least one top center men, because honestly isn’t that what they were missing since the departure of Mats Sundin?

  2. MarkRitter says:

    A centre will be the center of attention going forward…

  3. MarkRitter says:

    Hey Dan,

    First, I am well aware that Versteeg is a winger, but he COULD play centre.

    As for Burke’s comments, I suppose he is “ok” with Bozak, Kadri or Versteeg then…I am not sold on any of them being able to play first line minutes for a whole 82 games.

    As you eluded to, a winger will be a good pickup as long as they can use him at centre as well.

    I am “ok” with letting Kadri have a shot at the number two centre, but let’s have him make the freak’ing team first, ok? (I think he will, but nothing is for certain).

    Burke can say he is not looking for an elite centre all he wants, the reality is, he may need one and the only way he is going to land one is through a trade…there is nobody of that calibre left in free agency.

    Thanks for the comment!

  4. Raj Pilaka says:

    Thomas Kaberle is an AMAZING Leaf defenseman. In the 06/07 season, Kaberle, Tucker, Sundin, Mccabe, and Wellwood were the stars. And only one of them is left on the leafs today. I was expecting him to be the next Leaf captain after Sundin. They should get rid of Finger, Beauchemin, and Van Ryan somehow, and keep Kaberle!

  5. Raj Pilaka says:

    They should sign Afiniganov. Or i have a strange feeling that Tucker will make a big impact if he comes back to Toronto. he hasent shown it much with the Avs, but he has with the Leafs, that he is small on the outside, but in the inside he plays with a heart, he can go to the net, he could stick up for teammates, and can get under the skin. Also that fans would LOVE to see tucker back in a Leaf’s sweater. Afiniganov, and Tucker are the best bet in my opinion.

  6. dan says:

    He not in the works to play Center and hasn’t. You should know that as well as i do. anyone “COULD” play center. He’s going to be a winger in most situations. Maybe on penalty kill he’ll play CENTER for YOU.

  7. Justin says:

    If the Leafs pick up another center Bozak and Kadri will have to fight for the 2nd center spot and then where will the other go? Kadri might not make the leafs this year but he will eventually in which case we will have too many scoring centers and Burke doesn’t like having skill in his bottom six so his center position is really already set hence why he is looking for an elite winger.

  8. dom says:

    exactly what i would say justin, i guess ritter doesn’t get it

  9. dom says:

    hes too self righteous, cause he’s a self proclaimed expert

  10. MarkRitter says:

    Yeah, NHL GM’s are always worried about having too much scoring. Doesn’t Kadri have to make the team first? Does he not have to earn his playing time? Are none of you just a little afraid of Bozak taking a step back this season—it’s happened to a lot better players than Bozak.

    The Leafs need scoring. The Leafs need a centre who can dish the puck to Kessel. Not sure why you guys cannot see the need…we’ll see what Burke does, no use in arguing about it until he makes a move or not, right?

  11. MarkRitter says:

    Afinogenov has a rep for taking nights off—not something Burke looks for. As for Tucker, he’s still on the payroll as a buyout! With all due respect, he’s not coming back.

    Thanks for the comment!

  12. MarkRitter says:

    Van Ryn is a UFA and will not play in the NHL again until his back heals, which may never happen.

    As for Finger, agreed!

  13. MarkRitter says:

    A Centre would be nice…

  14. dom says:

    ya a center would be nice but its not what he wants so don’t even suggest it, plus he could have a deal for a center already, and that may be why he’s looking for a winger

  15. MarkRitter says:

    So, you say I shouldn’t suggest Burke needs a centre and then you say “plus he (Burke) could have a deal for a center already, and that may be why he’s looking for a winger”

    With all due respect, if he already has a deal in place for a centre then he must have been looking for one when I wrote the article earlier in the week, no?

  16. MarkRitter says:

    Dom—

    I got rid of Dan’s comments because he is using poor language. My readers and sponsors do not need to read that crap.

    I am as respectful as the next guy. Look at my comments…if we disagree, that’s cool…but there is no need to call people derogatory names or swear…

  17. dom says:

    no if he said he doesn’t want a center then why would you suggest he’s looking for one, and this article was not written a week ago cause we just signed lebda, and it says you posted it today, don’t lie man

  18. dom says:

    i agree with what you say about dan but you were derogatory as well so then you should also take down your comments, if that is the real reason you do it

  19. MarkRitter says:

    Apologize there…I thought you were talking about the Schenn/Kaberle article—that’s what everyone else has been commenting on.

    Still, if Burke already has a centre lined up it suggests the Leafs need one and that’s what I have been saying, right?

  20. dom says:

    i disagree, cause that’s not what your saying, your saying that they should find a center in the kaberle deal, and that’s not what he wants

  21. MarkRitter says:

    Actually, if I could get five seconds to finish, I will make sure my comments are not left on the board. I was simply responding to him, not allowing him to bully me—I won’t have that.

    Again, if he wants to be respectful, fine…name calling and all that crap is not cool, not needed.

    I am trying to build something here, not get flagged…

    I used the board to reply ’cause it’s not like I am handing him out my email addy…lol..

  22. MarkRitter says:

    I don’t need guys like that emailing me…lol…

    All I want is good hockey debate, nothing more, nothing less.

    I am no braggart, I have earned the right to call myself an “expert”, my reputation and accomplishments speak for themselves—no need to list my resume again, I hope!

    As I said before, you can disagree with me all day long, that’s all good. What I try to do is engage in good conversation sparked by articles that some may view as controversial. That’s why I wrote about Schenn being traded, to get hockey fans to think out of the box and to make comments, not get into arguments and other BS.

    Peace!

  23. MarkRitter says:

    He thinks by writing insults he can intimidate, not so around here.

    If he had backed up anything he had written I never would have been so aggressive in refuting him. I don’t ask people to post comments here, but when I do, I expect people to be respectful…

  24. dom says:

    what would he have to back up…… and good hockey talk usually ends up in a disagreement or an arguement, that’s how it goes man…. just for the sake of asking, what have you done, that you are an expert cause i have no idea, just wondering…

  25. MarkRitter says:

    I was accredited by the NHL for the Winter Classic. I work with Gabe Morency at morencysports.com where me and my buddy have our own show called “get the puck out”. I have had over 350,000 people read my blog at http://www.thebleacherreport.com in just over a year. I have had numerous stories appear on NHL.com and I have also been featured on CBSsports.com, Foxsports.com, etc, etc.

    I have interviewed numerous NHL players, have been invited to several NHL conference calls, and, to put it bluntly, I know my hockey!

  26. MarkRitter says:

    Yeah, I know a good debate when I see one, he was looking to bash and argue, nothing constructive, you know?

    Anyways, it’s done and so am I…

    Peace!

  27. dom says:

    no offence dude, but i can’t stand gabriel morency, all he does is run his mouth, how come you weren’t accredited for the finals?

  28. MarkRitter says:

    I was. But I live in Toronto and was unable to attend due to work obligations and cash flow.

    I covered the Flyers for BR last year. I was invited to attend the finals—my fellow BR writer who covered the Blackhawks attended the home games—and I was invited to both the awards show and the draft…again…I work for a living…hard to attend for a week, you know?

    I am not fronting like I am a member of the media, although on occasion I have been…

  29. jim g says:

    Mr Burk is waiting as there are offers out there ,he is waiting as are the rest of the intelligent gm s are ,Mr burke has already stated he is waiting for the free agent acivity to settle before he makes the next decision , a wise move imo . Anyone they can get Pheneuf for what he traded with can be trusted ,and he has won a cup already
    In Burke we trust and no we are not blind !!!

  30. dom says:

    ya well that’s the thing about writing for a website that makes no money.

  31. MarkRitter says:

    Well, the website has just started…given time it may make a name for itself.

    I will be covering the Leafs this season. Hopefully I get a shot at getting accredited for some games and interviews. Working on it…

  32. Xalvion says:

    I’ll give you a perfect example of what I’m talking about …

    Ritter suggests that Burke is looking for a number 1 centre. Subsequently, there’s a firestorm of namecalling over the fact that Burke is quoted as saying that he’s not looking for a centre.

    Are you REALLY that dense? Apparently, it never occurred to any of you that Burke might just be massaging the trade market in preparation for just such a trade!

    When you’re looking for a new car, do you walk into the dealership with stars in your eyes, hug the shiny new coupe in the showroom and say “I LOVE THIS CAR!”???

    Geez, people, THINK!

  33. MarkRitter says:

    Again…good comment…a voice of reason!

    Peace!

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