Steve Yzerman at least kicks the tires on Tomas Kaberle

Saturday could be a big day around the National Hockey league as it is the last day the Maple Leafs can trade defenseman Tomas Kaberle before his no-trade clause kicks in at midnight Sunday. There have been reports of as few as four and as many as nine teams involved in negotiations.

Given Tampa Bay’s needs on defense, it is naive to believe general manager Steve Yzerman hasn’t at least inquired about getting Kaberle into a Lightning uniform.

Is Kaberle a good fit for the Lightning? Seems like it on the surface. Kaberle, 32, is a sturdy, efficient puck-moving defenseman who had seven goals and 49 points in 82 games last season for Toronto. He averaged 22:21 of ice time. Yes, he was minus-16 on a bad team. But he had three goals and 25 points on the power play.

Kaberle also has one year left on a contract that will pay $4.25 million next season. Even without the expected salary going to other way in a trade, Kaberle fits under the $59.4 million salary cap as Tampa Bay has about a $10 million cushion. It also means the Lightning is not locked into anything long term. That fits perfectly with Yzerman’s idea of evaluating his roster over the next season or two as he reshapes and rebuilds the organization.

In the meantime, Kaberle would give the Lightning the puck-moving defenseman new coach Guy Boucher needs to make his system work at maximum efficiency. (For the time being, let’s assume Paul Ranger is not coming back as we have not heard otherwise.) Kaberle also would provide a formidable quarterback on a power play that already boasts lots of up-front firepower. In short, it would make the team, given the parity in the East, a real threat. Not bad for an organization that is supposed to be in rebuilding mode.


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