It's now the middle of August and we know a few things about the Maple Leafs situation with Tomas Kaberle. August 15th (today) is the last day that Kaberle has before his no-trade clause takes effect again and he would have to then okay a deal by waiving that clause for any new deals that may or may not surface after today. We know that Burke is not in the business of taking less than his value in any deal and he is looking for a top six forward with size and scoring ability or a "futures package," which would include a high pick and a "quality young player."
In 2010, Kaberle was the 10th ranked defenseman in scoring with 49 points in 82 games and in 2011, the final year of his deal, he will have a cap hit of $4.25 million. Of those top 10 defensemen, Kaberle's cap hit ranks 7th, which suggests that he is a pretty good bargain for any team that decides to pick him up.
The Leafs are battling against the salary cap and have some great defensive depth on their side at the moment. Not including buyouts or bonus penalties, the Leafs have 20 players signed on, including eight defensemen, for $56.5 million, which doesn't leave the club for very much wiggle room for immediate improvement as it is. Tack on the extras and the Leafs are sitting at $58.9 million. The Leafs could very easily get to a playing line-up of 20 players, possibly having an extra defenseman in the line-up for a reasonable cost, but that would force the Leafs to use some younger, cheaper talent.
For the 2011 Entry Draft, Toronto is the only team that doesn't have their 1st round pick, which is the last piece of the deal that saw Phil Kessel get dealt to the Leafs, almost a year ago now. If we were to eliminate teams by that notion, we really couldn't, but I think it's fair to think that if the Maple Leafs are going to take a "futures package," a team's 1st round pick will be front and centre for a deal.
The teams most often pointed out in the rumours going around include the Bruins, who have Toronto's 1st round pick in 2011, the Sharks and Ducks, Pacific Division foes in need of blueline help, and the Devils and Kings, who have been dealing with the Ilya Kovalchuk situation for the better part of this Summer. It's too bad we don't get to see what offers have been made or how the picks/players stack up in some of these deals that have been on and off the table, leaving us only to assume.
Personally, I think there is enough that adds up to Kaberle getting dealt on Sunday before midnight. The Leafs would probably prefer to have some cap flexibility, a 1st round pick and a little bit more youth in their system and they would likely prefer to get it from anyone.
Kaberle has expressed much interest in staying with the team, likely vetoing a trade after the no-trade clause falls back into place, so Burke has only so much time to make a deal.
On the other hand, the 1st round pick might be a pivot point on any deal, not settling for anything less, where the prospect that may come in return, could be downgraded just as easy, since there is a little bit more flexibility with coaching and development in their own system. I guess this is what would keep me from being surprised if Kaberle wasn't to move on Sunday, plus he would be a hard defenseman to replace, despite the Leafs depth.