Puck Daddy - NHL

Signs you know the NHL Draft is nearly upon us: Beach weather, awkward photographs of shirtless junior players and the Toronto Maple Leafs attempting to unload Tomas Kaberle(notes).

Please recall the buildup to last year's draft, when the Leafs and the Boston Bruins were dancing around a Kaberle-for-Phil-Kessel swap that ultimately resulted in Toronto hanging onto itsr veteran defenseman and Brian Burke later doing something potentially regrettable with his 2010 first-round draft pick that's now second overall.

Oh, and that other first-round draft pick in 2011, too.

And that second-round pick.

This week, Leafs general manager Brian Burke confirmed that Kaberle is on the block again for the rest of the NHL:

"We're listening. We need to add a winger that can score, preferably with some size. And we need some secondary toughness. So those would be the areas we would try to address."

Burke sent out emails this week to several teams ostensibly to explain how Kaberle's no-trade rights work. That said, he's now clearly in the business of trying to create a market.

"A couple of teams asked how it works, so we made sure everyone understands it," he said. "Based on the interest already, I'd say there's significant interest in Tomas Kaberle. But it goes back to the fact that we like him. He's a good player, he wants to stay in Toronto, he's a good person and he's at a good wage."

He's in the last year of his deal with a friendly cap hit of $4.25 million. If Burke can't find the right deal, there's a chance Kaberle could be extended. But The Fourth Period is thinking he's a goner.

Where might Kaberle land? Let's have some fun with speculation, shall we?

Kaberle to the Columbus Blue Jackets

The most popular rumor thanks to Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun, who wrote last week:

Columbus holds the fourth pick in the NHL draft and there is all kinds of speculation around the Stanley Cup final that the Blue Jackets are under pressure to make the playoffs and may not have the time or inclination to wait for yet another player to develop. Don't be surprised if Brian Burke makes an attempt to deal Tomas Kaberle and more to Columbus to try and get an early pick 

First off: "There is all kinds of speculation around the Stanley Cup final that the Blue Jackets are under pressure to make the playoffs." Wow, sound the siren for that breaking news. You mean management wasn't happy with a playoff berth followed by the complete implosion of the team? Go figure.

It's obviously a desperate need for the Jackets, in the sense that their blue line lacks a No. 1 defenseman, a veteran puck-mover and someone who could improve their power play.

Of course, it could be a case of sacrificing a great young defenseman for one in his early 30s if the mock drafts are to be believed.

Kaberle to the Buffalo Sabres

The Buffalo News theorizes thusly:

Tomas Kaberle's no-trade clause is set to expire, and Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke is ready to deal him, according to Sportsnet.ca. One of the Sabres' biggest needs is a power-play defenseman, and Kaberle fits that description.

The Sabres hold the 23rd overall pick in the first round. They also have a bunch of young players with NHL experience (Drew Stafford(notes) comes to mind) that can play immediately for Burke. If the Leafs were willing to deal with Boston, then they'll be willing to deal with anyone else in the division not based in Canada. So, yeah, Buffalo then.

Kaberle to the Northwest Division

The wonderfully named Yakov Mironov (via PPP) speculates on a Kaberle trade to any of the teams in the Northwest Division, including this bit of matchmaking:

Calgary Flames: Can't help but think the Flames have enough ex-Leafs on their team. I also think they're not going to be spending too much on defense other than re-signing Ian White(notes). Darryl Sutter has promised an interesting summer to the Flames, so if through the process of blowing it all up, he needs a defenseman, he probably won't hesitate to call Burke.

And Burke will pick up the phone before his rings, based on previous trades.  

Kaberle to the Anaheim Ducks

Jeff Marek of CBC Tweeted up a storm but issuing the following speculation:

"Burke wants a forward who can score w/size. Bobby Ryan(notes) remains unsigned in ANA. Ducks may lose Nieds. Kaberle on the mrkt. Just sayin'..."

Ryan, of course, has a huge fan in Burke, but we're talking about a restricted free agent in his early 20s. If Kessel cost two No. 1s and a No. 2, the starting point for a Ryan trade would be Kaberle.

OK, so let's toss out our own speculation: The New Jersey Devils.

Lou Lamoriello was reportedly in on Kaberle at the deadline. The Devils gave away their No. 1 pick and their young, ready-to-play winger Nik Bergfors in the Kovalchuck trade; Kaberle instantly solves a few problems for Jersey, but do they have anything the Leafs would want that Lou would be willing to part with?

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