March 17, 2010
I've spent the past few days in Delhi thinking about Tomas Kaberle. And Tyler Bozak. (Who's not thinking about Bozak?) And Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf, of course. Along with Nikolai Kulemin, Viktor Stalberg, and the streaking Mikhail Grabovski. Luca Caputi and Luke Schenn, too. But mainly about Tomas Kaberle. And that shouldn't surprise you; not in the least.
India is no hockey hotbed. I haven't watched the Maple Leafs in action since February 2. I know, I should be counting my blessings. But I miss the poor bastards. Especially #15. Who, by all accounts, is playing some of the worst hockey of his life. In nine games since play resumed after the Olympics (Gold!!1), Kaberle is a -6, and has one meagre assist to his name. His -16 rating this season is by far the worst of his career. And it's no coincidence that the Leafs' power play has suffered along with Tomas, and now ranks 28th in the league at 15.3%. Kaberle, like many before him, clearly doesn't react well to uncertainty surrounding his future.
But you know me. I have trouble letting go. I'm not ready to concede that the Maple Leafs will be a better team without Tomas Kaberle, regardless of what comes back in return for his services. The Toronto Maple Leafs need Tomas Kaberle. The Toronto Maple Leafs' power play desperately needs Tomas Kaberle. Which is why I refuse to discuss what might happen this summer when Kaberle's no-trade clause temporarily goes out the window. Because Kaberle, 32-years old, must be re-signed.
Five years, $23.75 million; a cap-hit of $4.750 million per season. The new deal, front-loaded, would kick in at the start of the 2011/2012 season, after Kaberle plays out his current contract - one year remaining at $4.250 million.
2011/2012: $6.500 million
2012/2013: $6.000 million
2013/2014: $4.00 million
2014/2015: $3.625 million
2015/2016: $3.625 million
Obviously, no no-trade clause. Thanks to John Ferguson Jr., no-trade clauses can go to hell. Instead, a list of five cities/teams, of Kaberle's choosing, where he can never be traded. Hockey purgatory. For example: the New York Islanders, Florida Panthers, Atlanta Thrashers, Edmonton Oilers, and, of course, the Ottawa Senators.
Be true to yourself: can you really say no to Kaberle at a cap-hit of $4.750 million a season? I guess it all depends on how much you value the fluid breakout passes, immaculate rushes, and incredible -- like you won't believe -- cross-ice passes.
Think about it: if an NHL general manager was willing to take Jason Blake's contract off Toronto's hands, Kaberle's new deal could hardly be called an albatross. Kaberle would get what he desires: stability, and a Maple Leaf still on his sweater. And we (or is it just me?) would get what we want: #15 in the blue and white for, hopefully, the remainder of his career. (Which will include, Inshallah, a return to the playoffs!!1 I've heard nothing but good things about the post-season.)