The window dwindles. And so what?
I’m not a proponent of trading the smooth skating 31-year-old Czech native, yet not inflexible to believe the right offer would send him packing. Not so much due to lessened mobility, but because of the skill set he delivers and the fact there are other solutions that retain his services, yet keep the rebuild’s momentum.
But what’s the rush? What happened to the rebuild? Why all of a sudden is there a heightened sense of urgency in turning this ship around and would Kaberle bring the elite forward for the rebuild? What about drafting and development?
Fans clamored for a proper rebuild, understood it takes time to accomplish that, yet threw that out with a few well-placed signings. Turn around time seems to have gone from long term, to quick, fast, do it all now and get rid of that Kaberle to do so!
Assuming the only option to improve the club is by trading Kaberle alone is not entirely accurate. There are other alternatives.
Garret Bauman, in a beautifully written piece made the case for keeping or trading him and what it means if he’s still in the lineup come opening night. He did a great job so I won’t repeat that here. I’m going in a different direction.
Lessened mobility – in a skating NHL – is an issue, however, not as bleak. The Leafs blueline is fairly adept at long outlet passing ability, which includes newly acquired Francois Beachemin and Mike Komisarek and incumbents, Luke Schenn and yes, even Jeff Finger. They send the puck back up ice fairly quick. That’s an understated asset throughout this off-season and it has never been mentioned once by any member of the mainstream media .. because, they are not scouts.
Burke said that if he trades the smooth puck moving defenseman, he’ll be chasing one – for a much higher price, no less – and it still wouldn’t propel Toronto as far as some may hope. The Kessel for Kaberle rumor was probably setting the market for the talented Czech and I would wager the rumor began at the top of Leafs management, using the media as Burke has also stated, sending a message to other GM’s during this window to trade him.
Kaberle’s economical, cap friendly $4.25 million salary, poses a real interest league-wide, but realistically, how many clubs are really going to knock Burke’s socks off? The limited window to move him, where immunity of a no-trade clause kicks in, also assumes the entire league has legitimate offers, not just interest. GM’s cravings have to be backed by assets but there aren’t more than a handful of teams that are legitimately in the hunt, if that.
Players on Par
Let’s look at the scenario.
Kaberle’s dollar value and cap hit are bargain basement for what he delivers in accordance to the current marketplace of elite level defensemen. While his skills are on par with the elite, his contract is not.
Hereâ€™s how he pairs up with other blueliners.
Now consider the type of player that they can get for the 2.5-3.5 million in cap space relief due to Kaberle’s contract. I’m not saying one of these players should be targeted, but that they exist and the type of player, having a cap-friendly Kaberle in the lineup affords the Leafs to acquire another potential second line player. With other contracts coming off the books next season as well, the cap space premium is enhanced by the discount on Kaberle’s contract this season and next while having an elite rearguard in the lineup.
The Leafs are sitting at 53.828 million with about 2.1 million in cap space left, which wouldnâ€™t be the case if another contract was in replacement of Kaberle.
What’s that, you couldn’t give a Habs ass for any of the players listed above, or even of their caliber? Fine enough. It gets complicated with numbers, but interesting.
Leafs management have to be smart with the daily cap allowance (cap is a daily allotment that can be banked if not used, so we see paper transactions of players going to the minors). If they banked enough cap space by the trade deadline, the discounted contract with Kaberle, can afford them make a pitch for a prominent name, bigger contract, better potential franchise player, whether it involves moving the defenseman, or not, with hopes for the former not the latter.
This is the alternative Toronto should be exploring. The season has a dynamic that changes playerâ€™s situation quickly and perhaps Burke can take advantage of that.
Trading away all and every asset to get younger isn’t the only method to rebuild.
Philly didn’t do that … neither did the Bruins, and the Ducks are retooling on the fly. So did the Sharks, Canucks, Habs and Senators.
The power play could be the difference maker in a playoff spot or not and Kaberle plays a prominent role with the man-advantage. Toronto finished 16th last season (58-for-307, 18.9%) and a slight improvement, coupled with less goals against, equals a slight climb in the standings and a possible playoff spot.
Oh, and about Kabs not being as “good” when his contract expires, or that his new contract makes him less valuable, I think that’s a weak argument. He’s as good a player at $4.25 million as he would be after negotiating another contract at current rate and heâ€™ll be 34 when that happens. Itâ€™s Kaberleâ€™s job to keep up his skill set with a hard work ethic, and itâ€™s Leafs managementâ€™s job to keep in the fold and create the space needed for that. Foresight, not hindsight.
There is a special commodity in the NHL that he exemplifies and seems to have gone unappreciated in Toronto attributed to this heightened sense of urgency for a quicker turnaround.
His point values may have dipped, but he was at the top of the standings after the lockout and as the club slipped into oblivion, his point production was still on par with the rest of the NHLâ€™s elite rearguards.
If traded, it will cost the Buds a lot more in return to replace that skill set than what they get back in a potential return. Aside from a good outlet passing ability by the rest of the defense, no player can replace what Kaberle brings to the table, and Burke will end up paying dearly for that.
I used to think that the Janssens hit left him as less a player, but that isn’t really the case and with the improved toughness on the back end, he can play a foot taller. He’s just as mobile, adept at passing and features vision to find passing outlets and escape lanes with ease. Those aren’t easy qualities to replace.
Trading him may seem like the best option and most would consider that to be the first step. While a deal could still be consummated, there are other options to keep him in the fold and still keep the rebuild going.