Burke gets ready to begin Kaberle auction

Officially, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Tomas Kaberl e hits the open market Friday, when his no-trade clause disappears for a six-week period, and the auction is underway in earnest.

A half-dozen teams have made firm offers for Kaberle, and six others have expressed an interest, according to Leafs general manager Brian Burke who, on Thursday afternoon, said nothing was close.

“This is not a transaction that is draft specific,” said Burke. “This is just as likely to happen after the draft or not happen at all, as it would happen here.”

However, Burke acknowledged that the calibre of the offers “took a hard turn north [Wednesdsay] night, where we at least had to go back and look at them as a group. But there was nothing we seriously considered accepting.

“I know it’ll sound funny to people reading or watching or listening, but there’s no pressure yet. The deals that have been made so far have been mostly cap- or draft-related. We’re not in any hurry on this.

“We have to look at every other player on the hockey club, too. When you finish 29th, your list of untouchables should be pretty short – and it is.”

The NHL trade market took a short breather Thursday, in anticipation of Friday night’s opening round of the NHL entry draft, but it didn’t prevent endless speculation from continuing.

If there was a trend emerging, it was the number of attractive centres that could be had for the right price – everyone from the Ottawa Senators’ Jason Spezza and the Dallas Stars’ Mike Ribeiro to the Boston Bruins’ Marc Savard and the Buffalo Sabres’ Tim Connolly. All are capable of producing a point-per-game; all have played as No. 1s previously in their careers; and all carry a substantial contract burden, making them attractive only to a handful of teams with cap room and permission to spend.

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