The New Year always brings a fresh perspective on most matters, including the direction of NHL teams and the players who comprise them.
So, after a brief vacation – and after watching the Toronto Maple Leafs pratfall their way through the latter half of December and the first couple weeks of January – I’ve concluded that the Leafs and frontline defenseman Tomas Kaberle should part ways at their nearest convenience.
First of all, Toronto’s recent skid should be all the evidence required to demonstrate they won’t make the playoffs this season. And with one year after this remaining on Kaberle’s very affordable contract, there will be no better time to deal him than now.
Who else is more valuable trade bait on this team? Phil Kessel, sure, but not Luke Schenn and not Jonas Gustavsson and (with the possible exception of Nazem Kadri) not any prospect in their system.
I first wrote about trading Kaberle two months ago – and the reasons to deal him have only increased since then. One of the biggest is the continued improvement of blueliner Ian White, who is on his way to a career season on offense and who leads the Leafs in plus/minus.
That isn’t to say White could match everything Kaberle brings to Toronto’s lineup. However, a replacement-by-committee approach – featuring the puck-moving talents of White, Francois Beauchemin and rookie Carl Gunnarsson – would ensure there wouldn’t be a discernable drop-off in back-end skill after Kaberle departs.
And honestly, if the Leafs are one of the worst teams in the league with Kaberle on the roster, does anyone believe they’d be beyond salvation with him playing elsewhere?
I don’t. Even if the only thing Kaberle fetches is a first round draft pick to replace one of the two that went out in the Kessel trade, that is without doubt an asset the Leafs need more of as they continue a rebuilding program that will take years, not months, to see through.
No-trade clause or no no-trade clause, it is time for Kaberle to go. Even he has to see the end coming by now.
This column also appears in the Toronto Metro newspaper.
Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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