Friday, February 12, 2010

The Case for Keeping Kaberle

Trade speculation around Tomas Kaberle has been running rampant for the past few seasons, never amounting to anything more than a believed-to-be-done deal at the draft last season for Phil Kessel. That, and the infamous Philadelphia deal that would have seen Jeff Carter and a first round pick come to the Leafs in return, but Kaberle refused to waive his no-trade clause. It`s hard to type with forks in my eyes but I believe that if Kaberle is going to move at all, it has to be for a similar package to the one that Philly offered.

That`s not to say that they need what Jeff Carter is right now. When that deal would have gone down two years ago, Carter was not the player that flirted with 50 goals last season. He finished with 53 points in the 07-08 season, a career high at the time. He was a high pick with big potential, but that was the cost of acquiring a big-time offensive blueliner. So if we`re to consider what the asking price for Kaberle might be, the place to start would be the 2005 draft, for a player at the same stage in his development now as Carter was two years ago.

The one that jumps out right away, and ironically enough belonging to a team that has been mentioned in Kaberle rumors, is Devin Setoguchi. He was picked 8th overall by the Sharks, and his numbers actually line up remarkably well with Carter`s. Their junior careers, especially, are eerily similar. Both played four seasons in the CHL, Carter scoring 246 points and Setoguchi only three fewer. Here are their NHL numbers through their first two seasons:

Setoguchi: 125 GP, 42 G, 40 A, 82 P
Carter: 143 GP, 37 G, 42 A, 79 P

Obviously Setoguchi had a spike in production playing with Thornton last season where he topped 30 goals, and his numbers are now back down without Jumbo Joe feeding him like a baby. That raises some concerns about whether he can really take it to the next level, and he`s certainly not a Carter-like prospect, but there are some comparisons that can be made. That`s why I believe a deal for Kaberle would have to be something along the lines of Setoguchi and a first round pick, at the very least. If no one bites? Burke shouldn`t sweat it.

As it stands now, it`s not looking like Kaberle will move by the deadline. Darren Dreger at TSN has this to say:

Toronto's Tomas Kaberle remains firm on his desire to stay with the Maple Leafs, so failing a sudden change of heart, he will not be submitting a list of teams he would consider waiving his no-trade clause to join.

That always leaves the door open for a summer trade, but I don`t think Burke`s hand is forced to deal Kaberle at all. If he can get a package of a very good young forward with potential, plus a first round pick and possibly more, then great. If not, he has one of the best offensive defensemen in the league who wants to play for this team right now. One has to assume that if he wants to be part of a team having a rotten season this year, he`ll want to stick around when his contract is up and the youth starts to develop.

Kaberle is young enough that he can still contribute when the Leafs are ready to make a run at the playoffs, in the same sense that Gonchar has been key for the Penguins the past few seasons. That`s enough of a reason to keep Kaberle unless someone will offer up two or more core building blocks and extend his run as the longest-serving Leaf.

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