Burke’s blueprint involves protecting, not trading, Kaberle
Despite numerous trade rumors to the contrary, defenseman Tomas Kaberle will be suiting up for his eleventh NHL season in a Leafs uniform when training camp opens this fall.
The 31-year-old veteran blueliner was touted as arguably the most attractive commodity on the trade market, with puck-moving defensemen at a premium, and with Kaberle’s contract valued at a more than reasonable sum of $4.25 million annually.
Nevertheless, Leafs president general manager Brian Burke repeatedly stated this past summer that he would have to be “blown away” by any trade offer for Kaberle, and balked at a proposed swap involving Phil Kessel when the Leafs and Bruins could not agree as to which team should also a receive a draft pick in the exchange.
The phone line between Burke and Kaberle’s home in Kladno, Czech Republic remained silent between draft day on June 26 and August 15 – the brief window during which the no-trade clause in Kaberle’s contract was not in effect.
It appears that Burke’s blueprint for overhauling the team that finished with the fourth-worst record in the Eastern Conference involved protecting his power-play specialist on the blueline, rather than trading him.
Surrounding Kaberle with the likes of Mike Komisarek, Garnet Exelby, Francois Beauchemin and Colton Orr provides a much deeper layer of insurance than what existed as recently as two seasons ago. Leafs fans still recall, with indignation, the liberty that Cam Janssen bestowed upon Kaberle in a game between the Leafs and the New Jersey Devils. Janssen viciously slammed the Toronto defenseman into the boards, leaving him with a concussion.
Inexplicably, no player in a blue and white sweater came to Kaberle’s defense.
Rest assured that Burke’s newest additions will prevent a repeat of the incident at the Meadowlands.
Earlier last week, former Team Canada World Junior hero Justin Pogge was dealt to the Anaheim Ducks for a conditional draft pick, ending an often-tumultuous tenure in Toronto.
Pogge spent three average seasons as goaltender for the AHL Toronto Marlies, and received the call to play between the pipes for the Leafs on seven occasions last season, posting a forgettable 1-4-1 record. The epitaph on the tombstone of Pogge’s Toronto career was written the day of the Marlies’ series-clinching loss to Manitoba in the opening round of this year’s playoffs, when he was assigned to the bench in a backup role after starting the first five games of the series.
With the off-season signing of backstop Jonas “The Monster” Gustavsson, Pogge was afforded the opportunity of a fresh start outside of The Big Smoke, where the lofty expectations of being the Leafs “goalie of the future” appeared to be more than he could handle.
“It’s a new situation. You kind of get into routines when you’re in the same place,” Pogge – an Alberta native – told the Calgary Herald. “I think just changing everything up is definitely a healthy move.”
Rob Del Mundo is the author of Blue And White Beat, and will be blogging at TMLfans.ca throughout the NHL off-season.