Boston Bruins defenseman Tomas Kaberle didn’t play well in the opening games of his team’s conference quarterfinal series against the Montreal Canadiens.
In his first three games Kaberle was all but invisible, registering no points, two penalty minutes and five shots on goal – not the kind of performance the Bruins had in mind when they acquired the puck-moving defenseman in February from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Kaberle’s sub-par play in the first few games of the series prompted Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe to suggest the Bruins might not bother re-signing the blueliner if he fails to improve.
Prior to the post-season there were reports Bruins management and Kaberle’s agent were interested in talking contract extension, but agreed to postpone those discussions until after the playoffs.
If, however, Kaberle fails to elevate his post-season play, GM Peter Chiarelli will be grateful he agreed to wait until after the playoffs to talk contract, though he did give up a first round pick and a promising prospect in Joe Colborne for Kaberle.
If Kaberle hits the open market he would be the best available defenseman, but a lousy playoff performance would potentially hurt his free agent value.
TORONTO’S TOUGH SEARCH FOR A CENTER
Kaberle’s former team faces limited options to address their need for a first-line center via this summer’s UFA market.
Mark Zwolinski of the Toronto Star recently listed Dallas’ Brad Richards, Tampa Bay’s Simon Gagne, Buffalo’s Tim Connolly, Washington’s Jason Arnott and Los Angeles’ Michal Handzus as the best available options available to the Maple Leafs this summer.
Richards is clearly the best of the bunch, but it’s believed he’ll sign with the New York Rangers this summer. The rest are ageing forwards with lengthy injury histories whose best years are behind them.
That will leave the Leafs little choice but to consider making trades. Zwolinski listed the Rangers, Bruins, Flyers, Sharks and Devils as possible trade partners, as they’re all facing limited cap space this summer.
He also suggested Ottawa’s Jason Spezza as an “interesting case,” noting the centerman is due to make $8 million per season in each of the next two years (before dropping down to a $5 million salary) and is “an attractive chip” to help the Sens speed along their rebuild.
Ottawa, however, isn’t under any pressure to dump salary and it appears management intends on rebuilding around Spezza.
Given the intense rivalry between the Maple Leafs and Senators, it’s unlikely Ottawa GM Bryan Murray would agree to ship Spezza to Toronto.
HOW WILL THE DEVILS MANAGE THE CAP?
The New Jersey Devils have yet to begin contract negotiations with their key free agents, but that doesn’t mean GM Lou Lamoriello isn’t interested in retaining them.
Lamoriello recently told Tom Gulitti of Northjersey.com his organization has long considered restricted free agent left winger Zach Parise an integral part of the team, adding they’ll do “everything we possibly can as expeditious as possible.”
Parise subsequently told Gulitti contract talks had yet to begin with the Devils. There are more than two months until he becomes a restricted free agent, which gives Lamoriello plenty of time to open negotiations.
The same goes for defenseman Andy Greene and goaltender Johan Hedberg, both unrestricted free agents whom Lamoriello admitted he hoped to retain.
Cap space will of course be a determining factor, as Lamoriello currently has more than $52 million invested in 17 players.
If, as expected, Lamoriello re-signs Parise to a long-term extension it would east up a significant chunk of the cap space he does have to work with, which would leave little room to retain Hedberg and Greene, let alone fill other roster gaps.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.