Saturday, January 10, 2009

No Untouchables + Kaberle and his NTC

Brian Burke made his first two moves as Leafs GM – acquiring Brad May from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for a conditional 6th round pick in 2010, and assigning Nikolai Kulemin to the Toronto Marlies.

Minor moves, but perhaps Burke has finished analyzing his team and is ready to reshape the roster to his liking.

With the NHL Trade Deadline fast approaching, just under two months now, determining the players’ market value is the first step in order to reshape this club effectively – let’s be honest, trades haven’t been one the Leafs’ strongest suits these past few years… don’t worry, I’ll spare you the list.

Looking at the Leafs roster, it’s fairly evident there are no untouchables. However, Tomas Kaberle, Pavel Kubina, Alexei Ponikarovsky – who is on pace for 26 goals and 59 points – and Nikolai Antropov could all bring in some quality assets, hopefully in the form of prospects and draft picks. And if goaltender Vesa Toskala could find the game that made him critically acclaimed in 07-08, then the Leafs will possess an important bargaining chip.

Aside from Kaberle, who, for it’s worth, will make his fourth all-star game appearance, the Leafs are short of players who are capable of garnering high-quality assets via the trade route. That said, it’s important for Burke to handle the Kaberle situation carefully. Stating publicly that he’s not wanted, ala Cliff’s approach on McCabe, will not ensure proper value for the services of #15.

When asked if he would consider waiving his NTC this season, Kaberle replied with an interesting comment:

”It’s pretty much with Brian if he’s going to talk to me or not,” Kaberle told the Sun. “I haven’t talked to the GM and my agent didn’t talk to him. Let’s leave it at that for now.” (Toronto Sun)

My, how things have changed.

It hasn’t even been a year since Kaberle exercised his NTC, rejecting a trade that would have brought Jeff Carter and a 1st round pick to the Leafs.

Depressing, I know. But fear not, my fellow Leafs companions.

Kaberle’s offensive awareness, and PP-saaviness has him on pace for a second straight 50-point season (6 G, 52 PTS compared to his 8 G and 53 PTS last season). While his defensive game is suspect, it’s no secret that he’s most effective in the oppositions zone. Those who express interest in his services will be in need of a boost on the PP, so the lack of a consistent two-way game will not affect his value. While a similar package to the Carter+1st round may be unlikely, it’s not totally out of the ball park. If Kaberle manages to up his game with even more offensive prowess, I get the feeling we’ll be licking our lips at the rumours come March 4. Excuse my Sudbury Wolves bias, but if we happen to acquire another 1st round pick, I would jump at the chance of drafting Marcus Foligno - it would have to be late round, but I’m telling you, this kid has the ability to spark plug an arena in seconds, whether it’s from monster hits, adrenaline pumping fights or rattling the opposition, and he also knows his way in the offensive end.

If Burke plays his cards right, and manages to trade with a future-first attitude, the available players at his disposal can generate a wealthy return of prospects and draft picks - and god knows we need the latter.

March 4th. The day I avoid all interactions with the outside world.

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