Kaberle Likely Next to Go

There were 3 things that needed to happen before the Toronto Maple Leafs could really start to entertain offers for blueliner Tomas Kaberle.

While they’ve gotten some nibbles, its now where some tangible offers should come on the table.

The Leafs first needed the distractions of the draft to pass and allow teams to focus on their current rosters than on the rosters of tomorrow.

GM Brian Burke did mention this during the draft as he put the Kaberle talks on the shelf at that time as teams were simply too busy to think trades.

Secondly, the initial free agent frenzy needed to pass as well. With teams not knowing their cap situation after the dust settled and with a few other blueliners on the market, there was just no way of knowing who would and would not be interested in Kaberle until after all that hoopla of July 1st dissipated.

There were teams, like the Devils, Pens, Ducks and Lightning who were rumoured to have interest in Kaberle. But all of those teams spent heavily in free agency and all reshaped their D to some degree. Seeing some of these teams pick up free agents somewhat sorted out the who’s in and who’s out of the Kaberle sweepstakes.

Lastly, the biggest free agent of all that was available had to sign. That was Ilya Kovalchuk. While it was really a 2 team race, some others left out hope. Kovalchuk eventually went to Jersey and finally some clarity can perhaps come with Kaberle.

Kovalchuk signing was key as it was rumoured that the loser of the Kovalchuk running would go after Kaberle. While that remains to be seen, Kaberle now is the biggest name available.

In another turn of events, Simon Gagne became available and he too joined a new club the same day as the Kovalchuk signing. A pending UFA himself with a no trade clause, Gagne emerged as another interesting name made available with the Flyers in some cap difficulties thanks to their other moves.

With that done with, now perhaps teams can focus on Kaberle.

A strong possibility is too that Kaberle stays. He has hinted many times he loves Toronto and wants to stay. Burke as well has said he likes the player, his cap number and what he brings.

But, a separation may benefit both club and player as Kaberle probably could use a fresh start, after years of decent play but team struggles. Losing may be wearing on him and perhaps going to a win now environment to a team certain to play in the playoffs with help him.

The Leafs too still have some needs to fill and easily their best bargaining chip is their All Star blueliner.

The team is set in goal with Giguere, likely the co-number 1 and mentor to the teams young goalies and Gustavsson, the co-number 1, and future number 1 netminder for the Leafs.

The Leafs added Brett Lebda via free agency to add depth on D. He joins major mid-season acquisition Dion Phaneuf, their new captain, along with key holdovers Komisarek, Beauchemin, Schenn and Gunnarsson to likely form the team’s top 6 D if Kaberle goes. With Jeff Finger in tow as well, along with some decent kids on the farm, there is some ok depth here on defense, and perhaps this would allow a Kaberle move. While it could always be better, like having another high end D man to develop and follow in the foot-steps of Schenn, its much better than the days where Jamie Sifers was a top D prospect for the team.

It is at forward where the Leafs need the most assistance. The additions of Versteeg and Armstrong this summer will help immensely. They’re easily top 9 forwards on any team and will help Toronto in many areas. Both excel on the PK, both are very versatile, both play with some sandpaper. Armstrong is an intimidating hitter and should help add that truculence and testosterone to the front line.

Versteeg bring more skill and after two very good years in a support role for the Hawks, where he notched 2 20 goal seasons playing behind the likes of Kane, Toews, Sharp, Hossa, he may finally get a starring role here in Toronto.

He joins 30 goal man Phil Kessel, emerging youngsters like Bozak, Kadri and Kulemin and other players with some skill like Grabovski, Hanson, Mitchell, Caputi, Irwin as players looking to aid in the Leafs offensive woes.

While some of the moves should really shore up some key areas like the PK, being harder to play against, more aggression, a more willingness to play in traffic and overall defensive play, the team may still struggle.

Goals do seemingly look tough to come by from this group other than a couple of proven players.

Another goalscorer or top 6 forward will go a long way to help Toronto attempt to deviate from those group of teams logjammed between 6th and 13th place.

This is where Kaberle comes into play.

So what kind of potential deals are out there?

Well there are the teams who are not interest or cannot afford Kaberle.

They include the cap crunch teams like Philly, Chicago, Detroit, Boston, New Jersey, Calgary, Vancouver, NY Rangers, Edmonton.

Also includes the financially non-viable teams with money and/or ownership problems or simply just cheap. These include Phoenix, Dallas, Nashville, Florida, Carolina, Atlanta, NY Islanders, St Louis.

And there’s those who made blueline additions already like Buffalo, Tampa, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Anaheim

And there’s the rivals like Montreal and Ottawa.

Obviously any one of these teams could step up and be interested, and perhaps made the most viable offer. But it seems though heaven and earth need to move before something gives with these teams.

So who’s left?

Los Angeles Kings

The Kings lost out on Kovalchuk. So what now? Well they have been rumored to have interest in Kaberle. However do they have the top 6 forward to fulfill Toronto’s wishes? They do not. Justin Williams has skill but has struggled with injuries. Stoll is solid but not a top 6 forward. Frolov is a free agent, Brown is their captain and they will never trade Kopitar. All it leaves for forwards is Brayden Schenn. But he is unproven and no guarantee to help Toronto immediately. With LA, it may take a 3rd team to make this work. One who`d be interested in getting a young, top defensive prospect, which LA has many of, like Colton Teubert or Thomas Hickey, while having that depth up front to be willing to part with a top 6 forward. This could be tricky.

Cap Space = 16.1 mil
Available players: Johnson, Schenn, Teubert, Hickey, Stoll, Williams, Quick or Bernier, Drewskie, Moller. Voinov.
Current D: Doughty, Johnson, Greene, Scuderi, Drewskie, Harrold, Martinez

San Jose Sharks

The Sharks are also a team with high interest. Its a good fit in that the Sharks are in win now mode, have an opening on D with Blake retired, could use more mobility, a factor that was exposed in the West finals and they lost out on Hjalmarsson, whom they put an offer sheet on. They also have 2 forwards potentially available. With Thornton, Heatley, Marleau and Pavelski, they have a great big 4 up front. Couture and McGinn have lots of promise too. They probably have room for just one of Setogutchi or Clowe. Thats mostly due to what they’ve committed money wise at forward and with Thornton due to be a UFA in a year.

Setogutchi is currently a RFA. The Sharks do have 6 mil in cap space to use, however need 5 roster spots to fill. However last year the team was content to fill out the team with cheap, well travelled vets so that shouldnt be an issue.

Clowe is the kind of Burke type player. He is big, tough, can score 25 or so goals, goes to the net, sticks up for his mates. He’s someone the Sharks would like to keep too. But, they do have a big hole on D and really need to strengthen their top 4. The Sharks, despite their odd choices for goaltenders, are in fact in win now mode and are finally looking to get
over the hump and contend for the cup.

Cap Space = 6.1 mil
Available Players: Setogutchi, Clowe, their 1st rounder, Doherty, McLaren.
Current D: Boyle, Murray, Vlasic, Leach, Huskins, Demers, Wallin.

Colorado Avalanche

The Avs are a real darkhorse in all of this. They’ve done nothing much but some minor cosmetic surgery to the team. They’re no longer a big, rich organization, however, they have lots of cap space, and even locking up their key RFAs, they’ll still have plenty of room left over.

The team is very deep up front with a nice core of Stastny, Mueller, Duchene, Stewart, O’Reilly up front. They have lots of good, young players, but, after a brief taste of the playoffs, may want more. The playoff revenue helps and bringing some of that winning tradition back to Colorado may help bring back fans.

While they have Quincey and Liles and some ok kids on the way or at least close to being full-timers, they may want an upgrade. They have some youth they could part with, plus, they’re a team that has quietly gone about it’s business and may want a big splash to spark some interest.

They may not have the horses to part with however, but, they’re likely going to stick their nose in this to see what comes of it.

Cap space = 23 million
Available players: Stoa, Jones, McLeod, Gaunce, Cohen, Liles, Shatterkirk, possibly a 1st.
Current D: Foote, Hannan, Liles, *****insky, Quincey, Wilson,

Columbus Blue Jackets

The Jackets were one of the earliest rumored teams this summer in the Kaberle hunt. There was talk of the 4th overall pick but that seemed far-fetched.

They do have a serious need for a puck moving, mobile dman who can help their PP and get the puck better to their good forwards. They’ve recently been linked to Kevin Bieska, another dman available now via trade, but probably still are keen on Kaberle.

The issue may be a contract extension. That is a big crutch for all teams, but moreso for newer, less known teams like the Jackets. King James left Ohio, so is that a place to go long term? Who knows. But, any offer will likely require some hope of an extension before the Jackets would commit.

They have kids like Brassard or Filatov to dangle, but is that enough? Are more smallish forwards what Burke is looking for? Its a tough call but based on need, there is interest here.

They have a good young team, led by Nash and should at least on paper contend for one of the final spots out west. But they need some offense from the defense and Kaberle may solve their woes.

Cap Space = 8.9 mil
Available Players = Brassard, Filatov, Russell, Umberger, Murray, Pahlsson, Golubef.
Current D: Commodore, Tyutin, Stralman, Russell, Methot, Hedja, Klesla

Washington Capitals

The Caps seem like the only team in the East with a viable shot at Kaberle.

The presidents trophy winners, who bowed out shockingly in the 1st round of the playoffs have done very little this off-season in terms of new additions.

They’re obviously not good enough and could very well try and make a big splash. They’ve built up a good cupboard of prospects and have lots of talent. While they do have the best offensive defenseman in the game in Mike Green, a secondary talent back there as good as Kaberle would make them even more dangerous.

Kaberle’s playmaking ability with the likes of Ovechkin, Semin and Backstrom around would be fabulous. With last year’s failure, a big move could bring some momentum back to Washington and help the Caps surge forward.

While there is a concern with Semin a pending UFA, this team is looking to win now and be yet another young club to take it all a la Pittsburgh and Chicago. The sight of those teams winning certainly would have an effect on the Caps.

Cap Space = 8.5 mil
Available Players: Fehr, Fleischmann, Johansson, Bouchard, Steckel, Semin, Alzner, Neuvirth.
Current D: Green Schultz, Poti, Carlson, Alzner, Erskine, Sloan

Certainly the list is not complete. Any one of the other 29 teams would love to get Kaberle. They have roughly less than a month to trade for him or else they could wait a year to try and sign him as a UFA.

But some teams needs are immediate, as is their interest. And with the recent events, there is certainly a strong chance something happens sooner than later.

Its not horrible either way for Toronto. Yes, not picking up a top 6 forward, using their best trade asset will seem like a loss. But, if they keep him, they’re keeping a good player. That’s never a bad thing….unless its Toronto so it seems.