Monday, December 22, 2008

Is Kaberle the draft day trump card?

Howard Berger has reported, and Damien Cox seems to have confirmed, that Brian Burke has told the agents for Tomas Kaberle and Pavel Kubina that they won't be asked to waive their NTCs at the deadline.

This is madness. The Leafs desperately need to make moves with an eye to the future, and Kubina and Kaberle are two veterans who should be on the trade block. That doesn't mean Burke has to trade either guy, but both should be available for the right price.

Has Burke, who once called NTCs "coach killers" and promised not to give them out, suddenly gone soft on us? Is he really more concerned with protecting Kaberle and Kubina's feelings than with doing his job? Is this some sort of reverse psychology ploy, where Burke plays good cop and let's the harsh reality of the standings do the rest?

Or could he have a Plan B?

As we near the mid-way mark of the season, the Leafs look like a bad team -- outclassed most nights, certainly no threat to make the playoffs. But they're not among the worst of the worst, and as such are seeing their hopes at a top draft pick fade. In a draft with two franchise players, the Leafs look more like a team that will wind up holding a pick in the #5 - 8 range. That means Burke can wave goodbye to John Tavares of Victor Hedman.

Unless, of course, he trades up. And since he doesn't have many picks to work with, wouldn't it help if he had a star player in his prime to dangle in any draft day trade talks?

This is all speculation, and obviously we're months away from seeing how all this plays out.

Would a team like the Islanders, Thrashers or Lightning that feels some pressure to improve now be willing to move out of the #1 spot in exchange for Kaberle and, say, the #5? Put another way, could Burke swap Kaberle at the draft for enough picks to move up?

Not necessarily. It would almost certainly take more on the Leafs side of the equation to make a deal work. But without having a card like Kaberle in his deck, Burke has have virtually no shot at a top two pick unless the Leafs go into a freefall.

Keep in mind, Tomas Kaberle's no-trade clause expires after this season, opening up a window where he can be dealt anywhere. If he's still a Leaf at the end of the season, and assuming Toronto misses the playoffs yet again, Burke can move him anywhere he wants.

So if you're Burke, do you move Kaberle at the deadline -- to a team of his choosing, with limited opportunity for a bidding war, and with all the NTC-related begging and pleading that seems to entail?

Or do you hold onto him, get some bonus points for honoring your NTCs... and then have the option of blindsiding him at the draft table?

Surely Brian Burke has more on his mind than being a nice guy.


  1. I don't disagree with your theory about potentially trading up for draft day. I really do hope Burke is able to utilize one of the two for a better pick.

    As for the NTCs, Burke told the Score that he has no intention of asking Kaberle to waive his because he felt that to have one, they must have earned it. That should cause controversy in itself, since inept management brought these contracts about. I assume he means the same for Kubina as well.

    The only way Kaberle and Kubina will waive their NTCs is if they come to the decision themselves it seems.

    Love the blog, I'm very glad my friend gave me the link

  2. Hi FlashBoy... welcome aboard, glad you're enjoying the site.

    My concern about Burke's apparent policy of not even asking is that it puts Kaberle and Kubina in an odd position. If they would consider (or even prefer) a move, now they have to ask for one. And there's a big difference between accepting a GM's request, and going to the GM and initiating things yourself.

  3. I agree with Burke on this one. Lately Kabs has been playing well and yes, he provides a valuable trade asset(s) along with Kubina but NTC are NTC's - they are out of our hands. If Burke were to go ask them to waive it would disrupt team chemistry. A lot of folks say - tank the season and go for the 1st rounder. You are nuts. The Lightning drafted Steve Stamkos and he was/is nowhere near NHL ready and has not started well. Draft deep and get prospects. Makign the playoffs is critical for long term survival for a lot of teams - during the playoffs, players are not paid and all revenue goes back to the team putting more money in the coffers. So finishing last and going for a 1st rounder is NOT the way to rebuild. Look at Detroit - they drafted deep and won the cup last year - careful trades for prospects and talent are the key - not five million dollar players. As a Leaf fan, I'm glad Sundin is not back - I wish him well.

  4. @Glenn...

    You're right that tanking isn't the only way to rebuild, despite what Damien Cox seems to think. That said, a top pick in a great draft certainly can't hurt.

    Re: "NTC are NTC's", sure but that doesn't mean Burke shouldn't explore his options. Lots of players have NTCs to prevent being moved to a last-place team or a town they want to go to (Columbus, Edmonton, etc). That doesn't mean they won't accept any move at all.

    Brad Richards and Marian Hossa both had NTCs last year and were more than willing to be dealt to the right situation. Maybe Kaberle or Kubina would feel the same way this year. I don't see how it hurts to ask.

  5. @DownGoesBrown - agreed - doesn't hurt to ask - you raise a valid point. I wouldn't rock the boat right now so let's see if we can squeeze some points while the going is good. I'd love for this ragtag bunch to make the playoffs though!

    However, I do anticipate moves in Jan such as Toskala or Antropov who I think is a terrible skater...

    Keep up with this blogs. I enjoyed the Clark series. Sure brings back memories!

  6. Burke certainly has a history of trading up, doesn't he? Last time, he traded an offensive defenceman, one Bryan McCabe, to get what he wanted as well.

    Will be an interesting deadline and summer, that's for sure.

  7. This is how Fletch should have done it last year with Mats. Don't publically ask a guy to waive his NTC because it puts them in a tough position if they want to say no.

    Whatever Burke says to the media, I guarantee that come the trade deadline he will know if Kubina/Kaberle are at all interested in getting shipped out.

  8. @Mike...

    But did Fletcher ever ask Mats publicly? I don't remember him doing so. He may not have actively denied it like Burke is doing, but I don't remember him saying anything via the media.