Tomas Kaberle Remains a Maple Leaf

Tomas Kaberle is staying with the Maple Leafs, at least for now.

The veteran defenceman was not traded between the draft and August first, meaning that he will now need to waive his no-trade clause in order for the Maple Leafs to trade him to another team.

Brian Burke said that he is not at all disappointed. He had this to say in a statement:

“The hockey club confirms this evening that Tomas Kaberle remains a Leaf. While a number of Clubs made offers to trade for Tomas, none of them reflected Tomas’s value to our team. I understand a period like this is stressful to the player, and we are pleased that there is a resolution, and we can all continue to prepare for the coming season.”

Lukas can be contacted by e-mail at lukas.bib@gmx.com. Follow Lukas on Twitter @lukas_nhl for breaking sports scores, news and rumors.

Can the Maple Leafs Make the Playoffs in 2010-2011?

Francois Beauchemin

Before I begin, I want to say that I am not like a lot of other Leafs fans. In other words, I am not going to sit here and tell you that the Maple Leafs are going to make the playoffs and maybe even win the Stanley Cup just because they haven’t for so long now. With that being said, if you disagree with what I am about to say than don’t comment saying that I am just someone who thinks that their team is better than every other.

Moving on.

It is no secret that the Maple Leafs have not made the playoffs since the lockout. In 2004, the last time they made the playoffs, the Maple Leafs beat out the Ottawa Senators in seven games before being eliminated in the second round by the Philadelphia Flyers in six games.

It has been five on-ice seasons since we have experienced one of those seasons with legitimate hope. Hope that we experience a Stanley Cup victory.

Although it’s highly unlikely the Maple Leafs will win the Stanley Cup this season, they may be one step closer to breaking the forty year slump.

Phil Kessel and Kris Versteeg will be the likely leaders of the Maple Leafs offence, and possibly the most loved by fans.

Kessel managed to score 30 goals in 70 games last season with the Leafs which is six less than what he scored in the same amount of games with the Bruins in 2008-2009. Kessel seemed to be the leader of the Maple Leafs’ offence last season, scoring more than once in a game on six different occasions.

He also knows how to persevere. Kessel, who suffered from testicular cancer in 2006, is now cancer free. He won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for his perseverance during the 2006-2007 season.

Kris Versteeg, who is fresh off a Stanley Cup victory with Chicago, scored 20 goals and 44 points last season after netting 22 goals and 53 points in his rookie season.

These two young veterans will be a large part to any success that Maple Leafs have during the coming season. In fact, Kris Versteeg and Phil Kessel will likely be the biggest providers of the Maple Leafs offence aside from Tyler Bozak, who has the potential to put up 50 points this season.

Lets not forget about Nazem Kadri though.

Kadri, the Maple Leafs’ seventh overall draft pick in 2009, scored 92 goals and has helped out on another 166 (258 points) in 242-career regular season games in the Ontario Hockey League. The 19-year-old also has one NHL game under his belt after an emergency call-up last season. He went pointless in that game while going -1.

Although he may not start there, Kadri will end up as the Maple Leafs’ second line centre.

When put together, the four of them could be a large part of the Maple Leafs’ top-six forward group, with two other spots remaining. Those other two spots will be made up Nikolai Kulemin and any forward that Brian Burke might get back in return for Tomas Kaberle.

Nikolai Kulemin will be entering his sophomore season after an impressive rookie season. Playing on the Maple Leafs’ second line with Kris Versteeg (assuming that the Maple Leafs get a top-line winger in return for Tomas Kaberle), Kulemin could score 20 goals and put up 45 points, which is four more goals and nine more points than his production in 2009-2010.

With a group of top-six forwards that will be entering the campaign with more experience and very good potential, the Maple Leafs’ offence will be much more dangerous than last season.

While the top two lines will be putting the puck in the net, the third and fourth lines will be nothing short of intimidating. Boasting the likes of Colton Orr, Mike Brown and (if the Maple Leafs do not acquire a top-six forward by training camp) Colby Armstrong.

Orr and Brown will be used on the fourth to punish the other teams physically, while Fredrick Sjostrom will skate along with them on most nights. Colby Armstrong could find himself skating with Luca Caputi and John Mitchell to try to shut down the top line of the opposing teams while scoring goals when needed.

As you look into the Maple Leafs’ defence, you will notice that Francois Beauchemin had a slightly below average season in 2009-2010, scoring just five goals while adding  25 assists and posting a +/- rating of -13. If Beauchemin, who won a Stanley Cup with Anaheim in 2007, can have a better season in 2010-2011, then he may find himself being leaned on by Ron Wilson in big moments.

Beauchemin has the potential to reach 10 goals and 40 points. If he can, then the Maple Leafs power play will improve dramatically.

Of course Beauchemin will not be the only defenceman the Maple Leafs need help from if they want to improve their power play. Dion Phaneuf struggled last season before being acquired from the Calgary Flames in late January. The 25-year-old scored two goals in 26 games with the Buds last season, but don’t let the statistics fool you.

Phaneuf was leaned on very often by the Maple Leafs as the guy who could give the team a massive spark.

The former 20-goal-scorer was named captain of the Maple Leafs this off-season after being recognized for his great work ethic and ability to lead a team both on the ice and in the dressing room. Assuming that Phaneuf can balance the duties of captaining the Maple Leafs and being a top defenceman, the entire Maple Leafs defence will be strong for the latter half of the season.

With that being said, don’t be disappointed if Brian Burke elects to keep Tomas Kaberle.

Kaberle, an 11-year veteran of the league, is one of the best defenceman in the National Hockey League. As long as Kaberle is playing for the Maple Leafs, the young players, especially the young defencemen, will follow him. If Kaberle and newly named captain Dion Phaneuf are both playing the for Maple Leafs, the young defence corps will learn a lot.

With the being said, the Maple Leafs could make some big mistakes in their own end for the first couple weeks of the season, but the potential to rebound nicely is there.

However, just because things are looking good so far doesn’t mean that the Leafs will make the playoffs for sure.

For years, the Northeast Division was known as one of the toughest in hockey. Now that the Atlantic Division has taken shape and the Pacific Division is well on its way, the Northeast is not quite as comparable as it used to be.

Nevertheless, the Maple Leafs are still going to have to deal with teams that are tough to play against. Buffalo, Boston, Montreal and maybe even the Senators have the potential for big seasons in 2010-2011.

After loosing Henrik Tallinder, Toni Lydman and Raffi Torres in the off-season, Buffalo rebounded fairly well with the signings of Jordan Leopold, Rob Niedermayer and Shaone Morrisonn. The Sabres are likely to have a similar season as they did in 2009-2010 (45-27-10, 100 points, 1st in Northeast Division) since they didn’t really improve their team.

The Senators lost two very solid defencemen in the off-season in Anton Volchenkov and Andy Sutton, while also watching Matt Cullen leave the Nation’s capital. They did, however, manage to lure Sergei Gonchar away from Pittsburgh and into the red, black and gold. Gonchar, who scored 11 goals last season, is the puck moving defenceman the Senators were looking for.

Even though they lost Miroslav Satan, Dennis Wideman and Byron Bitz, the Boston Bruins still managed to improve their offence by acquiring Nathan Horton. Horton, who has played his entire six-year career with the Panthers, put up 57 points in just 65 games last season. There is no doubt that the Bruins improved their offensive attack after finishing dead last in the league in goals scored per game and total goals scored last season.

Last but possibly not least, the Montreal Canadiens didn’t exactly improve their team during the 2010 off-season. After losing the likes of Jaroslav Halak, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Glen Metropolit and Sergei Kostitsyn, Pierre Gauthier only managed to sign Alex Auld and Dustin Boyd. The Canadiens are taking a massive risk with Carey Price as he has not proven that he can come through when the crowd turns on him while Jaroslav Halak, who was traded to St. Louis, carried the Montreal Canadiens to the Eastern Conference final.

The Maple Leafs, who went 5-2 last season against Ottawa, will need to start the season series against the Senators the way they finished it in 2009-2010 if they want to prove that they can win in their own division. But of course, they will need to be able to beat the best in the division, and the league, to prove that they are a brand new team.

So, can the Maple Leafs make the playoffs? Yes.

Will it be easy? No. 

As a young team, the Maple Leafs will make a lot of mistakes, especially early in the season. But just like we saw last season, the Maple Leafs have the ability to string some wins together. It won’t take long before the Maple Leafs can start to string multiple wins together with the potential the offence actually has.

There will be a lot of ups and downs during the 2010-2011 season, but in the end the Maple Leafs will make the Stanley Cup playoffs, finishing seventh in the Eastern Conference just three points in.

Lukas can be contacted by e-mail at lukas.bib@gmx.com. Follow Lukas on Twitter @lukas_nhl for breaking sports scores, news and rumors.

Report: Kaberle to Columbus a Possibility

Tomas Kaberle

According to a report by Tom Reed of the Columbus Dispatch, it is possible Tomas Kaberle could be on his way to Columbus.

Reed says that the Blue Jackets have “kicked the tires” in regards to Kaberle, but unless the Maple Leafs lower their asking price of a top-six forward it is unlikely the veteran defenceman will land in Columbus. Reed says that he cannot see general manager Scott Howson giving a top-six forward for a defenceman who only has one year remaining on his contract at $4.25 million.

Kaberle, who has been rumored in trade talks for the last two years or so, scored seven goals and 42 assists last season in all 82 games. The 32-year-old native of Rakovnik, Czech Republic has played for the Maple Leafs his entire career, scoring 80 goals while adding 402 assists and posting a +/- rating of +27 in 820 regular-season games.

He has also appeared in 77 playoff games, scoring six goals with 22 assists.

Kaberle’s contract consists of a window in which the Maple Leafs can trade him between the 2010 draft and August 15th, meaning that Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke has little time left to trade him.

Lukas can be contacted by e-mail at lukas.bib@gmx.com. You can also follow Lukas on twitter @lukas_nhl for breaking sports scores, news and rumors.

Potential Tomas Kaberle Trade Options

Tomas Kaberle

Even though there is little time left to trade Tomas Kaberle without his consent, the Maple Leafs options remain the same. Many teams have been involved in rumors stating that they have shown interest in the 32-year-old, including the Columbus Blue Jackets, Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings, Dallas Stars and Anaheim Ducks.

They may, however, not be the only teams that Kaberle could go too.

The Edmonton Oilers, although re-building, could be one of those teams. With very little NHL experience on their roster, Tomas Kaberle could add plenty of experience and leadership to help the young players grow into great ones. Not only would he bring that impressive amount of experience and leadership, but he would also bring his outstanding skill set.

Even though all of that sounds positive, it all falls through due to the teams’ situations.

Since both teams are trying to become as young as possible, they would not be willing to give up their younger players, such as Andrew Cogliano, Sam Ganger, Tyler Bozak, Nikolai Kulemin and Luke Schenn, unless it was for another player who is about 26-years-old or less.

What is even more unfortunate is that Tomas Kaberle does not fall into that age group.

Since the majority of non-contending teams have the same mind-set of Oilers management, it is more likely that Kaberle will go to a team such as the LA Kings or Phoenix Coyotes, who have the ability to make the playoffs, but are still trying to get over that hump of becoming a real Stanley Cup threat.

This could lead teams in the same situation to be willing to give up more than others. If Kaberle isn’t traded before August 15th, the day his trade window closes, and agrees to waive his no-trade clause  at the trade deadline, than the Maple Leafs may be able to get even more in return than they would right now. This is because general managers will be even more desperate to improve their teams for the playoffs. However, that is too big of a risk.

Here is some examples of what the Maple Leafs could fetch from three of the teams rumored to be interested in Kaberle:

Los Angeles

To Toronto: Dustin Brown, Justin Williams, 3rd round draft pick

To Los Angeles: Tomas Kaberle, Mikhail Grabovksi, Jeff Finger

Brian Burke would be more than happy to gain the services of 28-year-old Justin Williams who would fit in well on the third line with Colby Armstrong. Dustin Brown is only 25-years-old and wears the ‘C’ for the Kings. He scored 24 goals and added 32 assists in all 82 games last season and is often compared to Mike Richards of the Philadelphia Flyers as a player who can score goals in clutch moments while not being afraid to get into the dirty areas and fight for the puck.

It seems as though the Kings want to give Drew Doughty full captaincy, but Dustin Brown is already captain, meaning that Los Angeles might be more willing to give Dustin Brown up than you may think.

The Maple Leafs would relieve themselves of Tomas Kaberle and the very hefty contracts of Mikhail Grabovski and Jeff Finger.

If the Maple Leafs and Kings were to complete this trade, Toronto would have just over $6 million in cap space to work with, about $4 million more than they have now, while the Kings would have about $8.9 million left.

OR

To Toronto: Dustin Brown, Scott Parse, 6th round draft pick

To Los Angeles: Tomas Kaberle, Mikhail Grabovski, Jeff Finger

If Mikhail Grabovski is sent to a smaller market than he may be able to flourish (i.e. Sergei Kostitsyn to Nashville). In his career, Grabovksi has only played for the two biggest markets in the NHL: Montreal and Toronto.

Scott Parse is an outstanding offensive prospect, worsening the draft pick that the Maple Leafs would receive in return. In 59 games last season, he scored 11 goals, put up 13 assists and posted a +/- rating of +13.

With this deal, the Kings would have just over $6.3 million left in cap space, while the Maple Leafs would have just over $8.6 million remaining.

Columbus Blue Jackets

To Toronto: RJ Umberger, Andrew Murray, 3rd round draft pick

 To Columbus: Tomas Kaberle, John Mitchell 

After completing this trade, the Maple Leafs would have about $2.6 million remaining in cap space.

They would be receiving a pair of big bodies, one of which can put the puck in the net. R.J. Umberger scored 23 goals and 32 assists last season with Columbus, playing in all 82 games. He has two more years remaining on his contract and could be very valuable if the Maple Leafs ever need to trade him, making $3.75 million and scoring more than 20 goals per season. 

Andrew Murray isn’t very much of a goal scorer, but he would fit in well on the Maple Leafs’ third or fourth line.

Because Tomas Kaberle is indisputably the best player in this trade, and John Mitchell is the same type of player as Andrew Murray, the Maple Leafs should also receive a third round pick, at the very least.

Dallas Stars

To Toronto: James Neal, Brad Richards, 6th round pick

To Dallas: Tomas Kaberle, Mikhail Grabovski, Jeff Finger, Mike Brown

This trade would require a sign and trade due to the fact that James Neal is a restricted free agent, meaning that the amount of cap space for the teams cannot be calculated accurately.

The Dallas Stars may just be the Maple Leafs’ best chance at significantly improving its offence because the Stars are not very talented on the back-end. If this trade were to be completed, however, Dallas will have vastly improved its defence corps, with the additions of Tomas Kaberle and Jeff Finger.

Mikhail Grabovski could lessen some of the blow of the loss of Brad Richards at the centre ice position as long as he can mature into well-rounded player. Mike Brown meanwhile, helps in bringing a sixth round pick back to Toronto as well as more cap space.

James Neal could be a good fit on the Maple Leafs top line, as well as Brad Richards, with Phil Kessel skating on the right-wing.

Brian Burke claims that the Maple Leafs are not in a rebuilding stage, meaning that the team is more than likely to accept a trade that improves the team now, not down the road. All of the above trades make sense for the Maple Leafs in their own way, but they all have something in common. They all vastly improve the Maple Leafs’ roster now, and down the road.

If you look at the Los Angeles trades, you will notice that the Maple Leafs would receive Dustin Brown in both of them. Brown is just 25-years-old and is a very good player who has five full NHL seasons under his belt. In the first trade, they would also receive a third round draft pick, which although it is not a first or second round pick, it helps. In the second, they would get Dustin Brown and a great young prospect in Scott Parse and a sixth round draft pick.

In the Columbus trade, the Maple Leafs would be receiving a big body goal scorer in R.J. Umberger, Andrew Murray and a third round draft pick. Again, the draft pick could prove to payoff while Umberger is a solid second line player and Andrew Murray could fit in well with the Leafs’ bottom six.

The Dallas trade also proves to be worth it in the long run because the Maple Leafs would be welcoming youngster James Neal, while also getting a draft pick. As for what it does now, it gives them a top-line centre, Brad Richards, who could have some serious chemistry with Neal if placed on the same line.

If Tomas Kaberle is traded, it is most likely going to happen before his no-trade clause kicks back in on Sunday, August 15th based on his past history of rejecting trades.

Buckle up, this crazy ride is about to get even more crazy.

Lukas can be contacted by e-mail at lukas.bib@gmx.com. You can also follow Lukas on Twitter @lukas_bib for breaking sports scores, rumours and news.

Toronto Maple Leafs’ Defence: How Do They Stack Up?

Carl Gunnarsson

The Maple Leafs have acquired a new defenseman…again.

It’s becoming a trend, doesn’t it seem? The Leafs will sign or trade for another defenseman rather than focus on another forward.    

This time it was 28-year-old Brett Lebda and 25-year-old Danny Richmond.

Lebda, who has spent his entire five season, 326-game NHL career with the Detroit Red Wings, signed a two-year, $2.9 million contract on July 7th.  He’s a smooth skating, stay-at-home defenseman,  but he can score too. Lebda has a career total of 18 goals scored in addition to 50 assists and a +/- rating of 31.    

Danny Richmond, the another free agent acquisition, has no goals in 49 NHL games, and three assists to along with a -12 rating.

After spending the majority of his career in the minors and a split last season between Peoria and Rockford, Richmond won’t likely achieve a roster spot with the Maple Leafs at the start of the 2010-2011 season. Especially considering the amount of defencemen the Maple Leafs already have set to play in the NHL.

The signing of Brett Lebda gives the Maple Leafs eight NHL-ready defenseman to fill seven spots at the very most; Mike Komisarek, Jeff Finger, Carl Gunnarson, Tomas Kaberle, Dion Phaneuf, Francois Beauchemin and Luke Schenn are the other seven.

But just because those eight are on the roster right now doesn’t mean that they’ll still be there by the start of game one of 82.    

Of those eight defensemen, Jeff Finger is the most likely to be eliminated from the Leafs’ roster once the season begins. Finger is set to make $3.5 million next season, which is much more than he appears to be worth. Most hockey fans will tell you that Brian Burke is going to send Jeff Finger to the minors; a move that could ruin his career.    

Those hockey fans are wrong.    

Based on what he’s done in the past, they will either trade him or place him on waivers.    

When Ilya Bryzgalov was stuck behind Jean-Sebastien Giguere in Anaheim, Burke looked hard for a trade for Bryzgalov. And he didn’t give up even when he couldn’t. Ultimately, Burke placing him on waivers where he was claimed by the Phoenix Coyotes. He went on to lead his new team to the playoffs for the first time since the post-lockout era began.    

When Burke came to Toronto, troubled Mark Bell was stuck in the minor leagues. Burke saw potential in Bell and immediately placed him on waivers. Bell was claimed by the Rangers, and though he didn’t succeed with his new team, it was still a class-act by Brian Burke.     

Needless to say, the American Hockey League is not an option for Brian Burke when it comes to Jeff Finger—unless he can’t find a team that wants to take him.    

Of course, Jeff Finger is not the only Maple Leaf defenseman that is heavily involved in trade talks right now.    

32-year-old Tomas Kaberle has been mentioned in trade rumours league-wide for the last two years and has been attracting a lot of attention from as many as six teams. None of that attention, however, has been worth the Maple Leafs’ time…so far. 

Do not expect him to be traded before the 2010-2011 season begins, as his trade value will only increase as time wears on.    

Moving on to the projected starting defence, you will realize that one of the biggest problems the Maple Leafs have is their amount of left-handed shooting defencemen. Tomas Kaberle, Dion Phaneuf, Carl Gunnarsson, Francois Beauchemin and even newly acquired Brett Lebda all shoot left-handed. Mike Komisarek and Luke Schenn are the only two players who are right-handed of the projected starting six.    

Left-handed shot, Tomas Kaberle, will be playing in his regular spot to begin the season; top line, left side.    

Dion Phaneuf is the most likely one to accompany him on the top line. As the captain, Phaneuf will be starting the season atop the defence corps and if he plays anything like he did last season, he will be staying there. Even though he shoots left-handed, he should fit in well on the right side, being an offensive defenceman.   

The second pairing will take on more of a shut-down role, consisting of Luke Schenn and Mike Komisarek. Both right-handed shots, Schenn and Komisarek are both stay-at-home defencemen.    

Luke Schenn has a great first pass and jumps in on the offence when he deems necessary. This makes him the better of the two to stick on the left hand side.    

Mike Komisarek has scored just 12 times in 395 career games. The 28-year old should be playing on the right hand side due to his lack of offensive skill.    

Carl Gunnarsson posted three goals and 12 assists in 43 games in 2009-2010, nearly putting him on pace for a 30-point season. Even with those impressive numbers, Gunnarsson still has a lot to learn, such as how to improve his own end and how to earn his ice time. He has the stuff to make it to the NHL, and most likely will. That said, Gunnarsson will need to start next season at nearly the bottom of the lineup and work his way up.    

With so much to learn, the 23-year-old is best suited to play on the left side of the third, paired with a veteran like Francois Beauchemin.    

Beauchemin first struggled to make it to the National Hockey League, but when he did, he flourished. In fact, he even won a Stanley Cup in 2007 as a member of the Anaheim Ducks. His great work ethic and leadership would be great for Carl Gunnarsson, especially if they can build some chemistry.    

Brett Lebda is likely to be used as a seventh defenceman/healthy scratch on most nights,though he could manage to sneak into the top four if he can impress when given the chance. Lebda is widely regarded as one of the smoothest skating defenceman in the entire league, and could prove to be a very useful player down the road.    

So to recap, here are my predictions on the Maple Leafs’ defence for the 2010-2011 season:    

Line 1    

Kaberle, Phaneuf    

Line 2    

Schenn, Komisarek    

Line 3    

Gunnarsson, Beauchemin

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @lukas_bib for even more up-to-date information on your Toronto Maple Leafs!