Kovalchuk ruling hurts Leafs’ chances of moving Kaberle

If the Ilya Kovalchuk mess was clogging up the NHL shipping lanes and making it more difficult for the Maple Leafs to move Tomas Kaberle, Brian Burke had reason to hope Tuesday would see both a clarified marketplace and new offers for the veteran blueliner.

Instead, the stunning decision by arbitrator Richard Bloch on Monday to reject Kovalchuk’s wildly front-loaded, 17-year contract with the New Jersey Devils on the grounds it blatantly cir*****vented the league’s salary cap system muddied the waters and made Burke’s job a little tougher.

That’s not to say there aren’t any suitors for Kaberle. There are, although none have yet stepped up with the kind of offer that Burke is hoping to see before the blueliner’s no-trade clause kicks in again at midnight on Sunday.

But having Kovalchuk made a free agent for the second time this summer means the Devils will be occupied with trying to re-work the contract, and there had been some suggestions that if they’d been unable to sign the 27-year-old Russian that GM Lou Lamoriello could have been motivated to take a run at Kaberle to add offence at the back end.

Los Angeles, meanwhile, may also take another shot at Kovalchuk after failing to get his name on a 15-year, $80 million (all figures U.S.) deal earlier this summer. The Kings were another team that could be a fit for Kaberle, so they might be busy elsewhere for a while.

Beyond that, the Kovalchuk ruling adds another wrinkle to a curious summer in the business of the NHL, one that has included the Stanley Cup champions walking away from a salary arbitration award to the goalie that delivered that NHL title.