Tomas Kaberle, the Maple Leafs and the no-trade clause game

January, 13, 2009
Tomas Kaberle raised eyebrows last week when he told local Toronto reporters that if he wasn't in Brian Burke's long-term plans, he would waive his no-trade clause at the trade deadline.

It was a smart and proactive move on the part of the Kaberle camp. His veteran agent, Rick Curran, probably deserves most of the credit. You see, Kaberle's no-trade clause actually disappears in the summer if the Maple Leafs miss the playoffs, and we know that will happen. So, if you're Kaberle, the fear is the Leafs then have 29 teams they can trade with come the offseason. Fancy a move to Long Island?

By pressing the issue like he did last week through the media, Kaberle wisely got the ball rolling. This way, since he still has a no-trade clause at the trade deadline, he can better control his fate by sending Burke a list of teams he'd like to go to. But that's if it ever happens.

Burke reiterated to last weekend what he has also told other media -- he won't ask Kaberle to waive his no-trade clause because he believes players have earned the right to have those clauses respected if they negotiated them in their deals.

"He told us that in the dressing room when he first came here," Kaberle said Tuesday after the Leafs' morning skate at Air Canada Centre. "He's been saying it to you guys [the media], too. That's nice for him to say that. The players sign those for a reason."

But what Burke is really saying is that if Kaberle wants out, the All-Star defenseman has to tell him. So far, that conversation hasn't happened. Asked whether he would go to Burke and ask him whether he was in the team's long-term plans, Kaberle hesitated.

"I don't believe that," Kaberle said. "There's nothing really to talk about. If I'm not in the plans, obviously it's a different story, but I won't come to him with that. I want to play here for the Toronto Maple Leafs. It's the same story I've been saying for the last couple of years and you guys keep asking questions."

At this point, it looks like the GM and the player are saying it's in the other guy's hands. Hmm. We'll see about that.

If Kaberle does go on the trade block, he becomes an interesting factor heading into the March 4 trade deadline. Jay Bouwmeester of the Florida Panthers might be the higher-profile blueliner likely to go on the trade block, but the 30-year-old Kaberle comes with a nice contract -- $4.25 million a year for two more seasons. That's pretty darn reasonable for an elite puck-mover in today's NHL. Bouwmeester is slated for unrestricted free agency July 1 and might only come as a rental player.

The Philadelphia Flyers made a hard push for Kaberle before last season's deadline, but the Czech native refused to waive his no-trade clause. Given Philadelphia's cap issues right now, it's not clear how they could get back into the mix this season. But should Burke wait until the offseason to move Kaberle, we can almost guarantee Flyers GM Paul Holmgren will get in on that action.

Another team to keep an eye on is the Montreal Canadiens. GM Bob Gainey made it known to reporters Monday that his wish list includes a top puck-moving blueliner. If Kaberle becomes available, Burke should expect at least a phone call from Gainey to kick the tires.

The trade deadline can't come fast enough!

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer


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