As any Leafs fan knows, Tomas Kaberle has survived yet another heavy round of trade speculation and, now that his no-trade clause has come back into effect, will remain in the blue and white once training camp opens next month.
Here are a few random thoughts on the deal that wasn’t:
Keeping an established, puck-moving defenceman is a bad thing?
I know that Leafs Nation is anxious to see their team improve and Kaberle’s 11-year tenure with the Buds has hardly led the team to unequivocal success, but he surely still carries value as a player instead of just as a trade chip. Given fan and media reaction to Brian Burke’s failure to trade the 32-year old puck mover, you’d think Kaberle was an unproductive headcase with an albatross of a contract. He is, in fact, none of those things, making him valuable to continue trotting out to offer valuable on-ice contributions.
So that’s it?
For all this talk about a prohibitive ‘deadline’, a trade could still take place provided it had Kaberle’s blessing. However, all indications are that the Czech rearguard is in Toronto to stay (at least until the end of the season, when his contract expires). Burke claimed to be pleased that there had been a “resolution” to the issue, while Kaberle’s feelings of “relief” do not sound like they come from a player prepared to okay his move out of town. It may sound ridiculous, but is a contract extension coming? He wouldn’t be the first Toronto athlete to re-up after being shopped around (granted, Alex Rios’ tenure with the Toronto Blue Jays didn’t exactly end well).
The defensive corps
It’s hard to imagine that there will be any other significant changes to Toronto’s blue line heading into the season (Luke Schenn for Bobby Ryan is nothing more than my own personal pipe dream). So how does the Leafs’ blue line shake down? You have to figure that Kaberle and captain Dion Phaneuf will be at the forefront, with Mike Komisarek-Brett Lebda and Schenn-Francois Beauchemin fitting in nicely behind them. Add seventh defenceman Carl Gunnarsson and additional options in Keith Aulie, Jeff Finger and Danny Richmond and it looks like a solid unit. I won’t go so far as to anoint them as one of the league’s best, given the struggles of a very similar unit just one year ago, but any blue line possessing no less than eight capable NHL defenceman has to be considered impressively deep.
Kabby the centre?
Of course, my last idea, borrowed from Punch Imlach’s approach with former Leaf great Red Kelly in the 1960’s, would switch up those defensive pairings as well as radically changing the overall look of the club. Kaberle’s skills – speed, vision and playmaking abilities – could serve him well in the middle as well as on the blue line. The centre position is obviously one of great weakness for Toronto, but could be made considerably stronger if the team were to consider a position switch for their longest-serving player. Kelly adapted almost immediately to the switch, helping Frank Mahovolich become a legendary scorer. It’s certainly a different league today, but one which still allows for the type of open, free-flowing offence that could make Kaberle and Phil Kessel dangerous together.
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Written by Ben Fisher