The Clock Ticks Down
Brian Burke's reputation as a manager who likes the big deal certainly hasn't been diminished in Toronto.
The Phil Kessel deal. The swap for Dion Phaneuf. The dealing off of Vesa Toskala and Jason Blake. The acquisition of Kris Versteeg. At least three of those deals - Phaneuf, Toskala, Versteeg - were transactions few believed Burke could pull off.
Now he's got to move Tomas Kaberle by midnight Sunday, and it's remarkable how many seem to be wondering if he can get it done. Seems the man's track record emphatically suggests he knows how to make a trade in the NHL.
Hard to think he won't deal Kaberle in time, if only because he really needs to move this player. And while the market is surely a bit woozy these days after the stunning ruling on the Ilya Kovalchuk contract, there's good reasons to believe there's a 90 per cent chance Kaberle will in fact be dealt.
The top reason? The offers are starting to improve. Deadlines always focus the mind.
The second reason? Burke really doesn't need to hit a home run on this one. He'd like to, but he doesn't have to.
While Kaberle is respected in Toronto, he's hardly beloved, nor is he intimately associated with team success, nor is he regarded as one of the team's leaders. Moreover, he's viewed as a talented puck-mover, but also a flawed defender. In sum, no one's expecting Burke to move Kaberle for Steven Stamkos or Drew Doughty. No one believes Kaberle can fetch an 80-point centre, which is Toronto's most yawning need.
He can also go a couple of different ways on a deal. He can replace Kaberle's salary with those of incoming players -- David Backes, Ryan Malone? -- or he can acquire draft picks and inexpensive prospects, say a solid youngster like 23-year-old blueliner Derek Joslin of the Sharks. The Kings, meanwhile, have both kinds of commodities, young veterans and prospects, and could do a hybrid deal.
If Kaberle's salary isn't replaced in the deal, Burke could also use it on a free agent before training camp. Or he can spend it on Boston's Marc Savard, assuming Savard's contract isn't disallowed by Gary Bettman anytime in the near future. Interesting - Burke has vowed not to sign one of these goofy front-loaded contracts, but does that mean he wouldn't trade for a player who owns one?
The important part is that Kaberle is moved - it's just time to turn the page - and that tangible assets are required, which might not be the case if he were allowed to stay a Leaf beyond Sunday. In the Kessel, Phaneuf and Versteeg deals, the Leafs were acquiring the most talented player (we'll see how the picks sent to Boston for Kessel turn out) who needed to be moved by the other team.
This time, it's Burke shedding a talented veteran, and probably not getting one. This time, he might be adding assets that might not be measurable in the short-term. It's a different dynamic all around.