NHL Trade Rumors: Who Will Replace Tomas Kaberle?

February 13th, 2011 No Comments

The Time for Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke to trade Tomas Kaberle was never better than last summer. Void of his no-trade clause, Kaberle was susceptible  to a move but Burke failed to pull the trigger on a deal, suggesting the returns being offered up by opposing GM’s were underwhelming.

Given the lack of interest in Kaberle from NHL circles, Burke happily held onto Kaberle, where he has watched his veteran defenseman have an ordinary season on a team that has once again fallen short of expectations.

Even with Kaberle struggling at times this season, in a league with few defenseman that can play upwards of 25 minutes per night, make a terrific outlet pass, run the power play and play with poise, Kaberle is expected to be sought after by several NHL teams.

The Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens, San Jose Sharks, Carolina Hurricanes and many other teams have already been mentioned as possible destinations for the veteran defenseman, but nothing has come of the rumors to date.

Trading Kaberle has long been debated in the media. Brian Burke has always maintained that he needs a player of Kaberle’s ilk and, in the right situation, would love to sign Kaberle to an extension.

With Burke taking strides to make the Blue and White into a younger club, it appears as if the time is right to move Kaberle, that is if Burke can get Kaberle to waive his no-trade clause (which is in full effect).

Whether or not Kaberle moves is debatable, what is not debatable is if Burke moves Kaberle he will have a huge hole to fill on the backend.

Through 56 games with the Maple Leafs Kaberle has registered a total of 36 points ranking him 11th amongst NHL defensemen. The rest of Toronto’s defense has amassed a total of 56 points combined—which is alarming to say the least.

Even more troubling is the fact that between Kaberle, Dion Phaneuf, Luke Schenn, Mike Komisarek, Carl Gunnarsson, Brett Lebda, Keith Aulie and the departed Francois Beauchemin not one of them has/had registered a power play goal and nobody has more than three goals on the season (only Kaberle and Gunnarsson have accomplished that this season).

Toronto’s offense has received a lot of criticism this season, some of it bang-on, some of it unfair. Let’s face it, without offensively competent defensemen your team is going to struggle, great forwards or no great forwards.

Having registered more than one third of Toronto’s offense from the backend, can Burke trade Kaberle? And, if he does trade Kaberle, how will Burke adequately replace what the talented Czech brings to the table?

When you look at the current roster both Dion Phaneuf (who once scored 60 points in 2006-07 with the Calgary Flames) and Carl Gunnarsson (who has a heavy shot), have the potential to become the Maple Leafs leading offensive producers on the backend, but it remains to be seen if they can get it done.

It is that unknown that must keep Burke guessing when it comes to trading Kaberle. Trade him and you gain some assets with which you may be able to build around, but who replaces all that offense?

On the current roster Burke has very few options. Luke Schenn, Keith Aulie, Mike Komisarek and Brett Lebda are all more “stay-at-home” defensemen, so don’t expect any of them to emerge as an offensive threat.

As far as prospects go, the Maple Leafs have a few players (Simon Gysbers, Jesse Blacker, Jake Gardiner) that may emerge as offensive D-men, but they tend to be players that are a few years away from making the big club, so there is no immediate relief on the horizon.

With seven goals and 18 assists (25 points) with the Toronto Marlies this season former Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Matt Lashoff’s name is bound to pop up, but one has to think if he was good enough to crack this roster he’d already be playing here in Toronto with the big club instead of the Leafs AHL affiliate.

Verteran defensemen Ed Jovanovski, Nik Lidstrom, Bryan McCabe, Andrei Markov and Chris Phillips headline an impressive group of unrestricted free agents this summer, but none of them fall into Burke’s re-tooling mode, none of them are likely to sign in Toronto.

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Joni Pitkanen (27-years old, 25 points through 48 games) is a UFA this summer, as are Vancouver Canucks defensemen Kevin Bieska (29-years old, 19 points through 55 games) and Christian Ehrhoff (28-years old, 33 points through 53 games) and the well traveled James Wisniewski (26-years old, 36 points through 50 games split between the New York Islanders and Montreal Canadiens).

All four would fit in nicely in Toronto, that said, would any of them sign for less than Kaberle’s current $4.2 million contract? And, assuming Kaberle may be willing to sign a long-term deal with Toronto for less than $4.2 million per season, are any of the alternatives really any better than Kaberle?

It’s a tough question for Burke to address, one he has to answer by February 28th.

Until next time,

Peace!

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