If Cup contender calls, should Kaberle listen?

February, 1, 2010

TORONTO -- The NHL's trade market isn't heavy on quality, puck-moving defensemen, and it will be a lot lighter if Tomas Kaberle is not available.

Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke repeated once again Sunday that he would not ask the 31-year-old Czech blueliner to waive his no-trade clause.

"No, nothing is going to change there," Burke said. "I don't know why people keep asking. Let's all agree that no one will ask me again. I'm not going to ask Tomas Kaberle to waive his no-trade. It's not going to happen."

Burke directed the media to ask Kaberle's agent, veteran Rick Curran of the Orr Hockey Group, what the defenseman's next move would be ahead of the March 3 trade deadline. In other words, the onus is on Curran and Kaberle to decide whether they want to provide Burke with a list of teams they would approve trades to or do nothing and stay put.

"It's actually quite simple," Curran told ESPN.com on Monday. "Tomas Kaberle has been a Maple Leaf since the day he was drafted and would prefer to remain in Toronto to help turn things around there, rather than try to win somewhere else. As indicated a number of times both publically and privately, Brian Burke will respect the provision of his contract that assures Tomas, for the moment anyway, of that opportunity to stay and prevail as a Leaf."

Curran is saying his camp won't provide Burke with a list, but I don't think it's that cut and dry. First, keep in mind there's a provision in Kaberle's contract that knocks down his no-trade clause for a specific window during the summer if the Leafs miss the playoffs. Well, consider that a certainty.

The star defenseman knows he could very likely be in play again this summer. Burke already tried to trade Kaberle last June at the NHL draft in Montreal during that same summer window, a deal with Boston that fell through over confusion regarding which team would be getting a first-round pick.

With a blue line that now includes Dion Phaneuf, Francois Beauchemin, Mike Komisarek and Luke Schenn, I suspect Burke will again look at what's out there when Kaberle's no-trade drops, as the Leafs are more desperate than ever to add some pieces to a barren forward group. Kaberle, who leads the Leafs in scoring with 43 points (5-38) in 56 games, has one more year left on his deal at $4.25 million next season (major bargain). He becomes an unrestricted free agent in July 2011.

Which leads me to this guess work: Even though Curran says there won't be a list and Kaberle wants to finish his career in Toronto, I suspect if a top contender like Chicago or San Jose, for example, phoned Burke and offered him a deal, the Kaberle camp would have to carefully consider that. If Burke might trade you anyway come the summer, why not take a chance at possibly winning a Cup?

Food for thought. For now, Kaberle is officially not on the trade market. But if the right team phones Toronto, I'm not so sure he wouldn't move.

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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