Well, it’s August 16. Not a particularly meaningful date; that is if you haven’t been following the plight of long time Maple Leafs defenseman Tomas Kaberle all summer. (That is no disrespect to TSN’s own Bob McKenzie who bashfully announced his birthday via Twitter this morning. Happy birthday Bob!)
Tomas Kaberle – who’s JFJ authored “summer window” NTC expired at midnight August 15th – remains a Maple Leaf today, heading into the final year of a contract that will earn him $4.25 million dollars this season. A reasonable sum on the surface, but when you consider the dollars currently being spent on the 29th place teams blue line, Kaberle should be viewed more as a luxury than necessity for a team begging for legitimate scoring threats in its compliment of top 6 forwards.
Does anyone believe that Kaberle will be interested in signing a new contract with a team that desperately tried to trade him the last 3 seasons? Do you think this year will somehow be different and Tomas will waive his NTC at the league’s annual trade deadline? Me either, and the fact the teams most trade-able asset remains on the clubs roster a day removed from his two month summer trade window expiring will prove to be a gross miscalculation by GM Brian Burke and company.
The Leafs are an improved bunch this offseason with the acquisitions of Colby Armstrong and Kris Versteeg, but with 8 NHL capable defenseman signed, and a glut of “just about ready” AHL prospects chomping at the bit to prove themselves at training camp, Tomas Kaberle’s presence kind of reminds me of putting lipstick on a pig. An improved pig, but a pig nonetheless. 29th of 30 NHL teams tells the tale, and that feat was achieved with #15 in the line-up posting 49 pts and a minus-16 +/- rating in 2009/10.
A complimentary PMD like Kaberle is the piece that could put a lot of playoff contending teams over the top in their quest for a Stanley Cup. For one more year, Kaberle represents to the Leafs nothing more than a link to its underachieving past and the kind of country club atmosphere the 4/5ths departed “Muskoka Five” represented in Toronto.
It’s gotta make you wonder what Kaberle loves so much about Toronto. Is it the restaurants? The ACC hot dogs? Canadian money? Maybe he just likes really big towers. Whatever it is, I don’t get why this guy steadfastly maintains he is unwilling to leave. It can’t be the pressure from fans and media; it certainly can’t be the on ice product. It’s a mystery, and I believe that obvious lack of burning desire to be a champion is the reason Brian Burke’s lofty price tag was not met by rival GM’s. The “ho-hum, I love Toronto” act has worn thin league-wide. Why give up an asset(s) for a guy you can wait 12 months to get for free? (Salary not withstanding)
Now Tomas has earned himself 82 games under the new Captain’s dressing room glare; don’t finish your check at a key time this year; pass when you should’ve shot this year; someone’s watching, and this C will hold you accountable, no matter the tenure, no matter the player. No passenger’s on this version of the blue and white…there’s a new Sherriff in town and he’s big, he’s nasty, he’s mean…and he means business.
We’ll see what time will bring – the 2010/11 season is right around the corner, and we’re less than 12 months away from next July 1′s UFA market. Then, and only then, will we see just how much Tomas Kaberle loves being a Maple Leaf and just how much he loves the city of Toronto. There was another long-time Euro who talked about a lot of the same things before leaving Toronto for no asset return, and becoming a rental player on the west coast.
For now, the following names hold one thing in common:
We’ll see if another All Star leaves Toronto – the same city each professed to love living and playing in – without their franchise receiving any assets for their loss.
Heading into the season:
Here’s my prediction for the opening day roster:
Kulemin – Bozak – Kessel
Versteeg – Grabovski – Armstrong
Torres* – Kadri – Sjostrom
Orr – Mitchell – Brown
Phaneuf – Schenn
Kaberle – Komisarek
Beauchemin – Gunnarson
*If Torres isn’t signed, look for one of Luca Caputi, Jerry D’Amigo or Marcel Mueller look to compete for time with the big club this season.
Follow me on twitter: @mbd_27
About the Author
Written by Mike De Petrillo
Leafs fan; former OHL LW; Live in Toronto