Finally, two things happened this week that people have been speculating about for the past seven years or so: The Rock returned to a pro wrestling ring for the first time since 2004; and in Toronto, the omnipresent trade rumors surrounding defenseman Tomas Kaberle mercifully came to a conclusion when the Maple Leafs sent their longest-serving player to the Boston Bruins.
And at the risk of fence-sitting on the part of yours truly, it’s a trade in which you can smell what both sides are attempting to cook.
The deal itself – Kaberle for prospect Joe Colborne, Boston’s first round pick in this summer’s draft and a conditional pick – isn’t a slam dunk for the Bruins, but it does make sense given the organization’s “go-for-it” attitude and previous savvy. Boston GM Peter Chiarelli’s earlier swindling of the Leafs’ 2011 first round pick (in the Phil Kessel deal) made the Bruins’ first-rounder expendable and available to plug a hole in the roster.
And to a degree, Kaberle does just that. He gives Boston the crafty offensive presence from the back end that differs more than a little from Zdeno Chara’s bludgeon-intensive approach. Kaberle also helps a middling power play that, at 18.1 percent, is currently ranked 14th in the league, well behind the likes of offensive powerhouses Vancouver (first overall at 25.2 percent) and Tampa Bay (sixth overall at 20.3 percent).
But there also is risk involved for Boston. Kaberle has looked disinterested in Toronto at times this season – perhaps a byproduct of the constant trade rumors – and as I said on Twitter, the average NHLer has a better chance of being hit by lightning than being hit by Kaberle, who is about as rugged as a day-old daisy. It will be interesting to see how he fits in on this physical Bruins team. But then again, it could turn out that Kaberle thrives under the relative lack of pressure he’ll face on a much better, deeper team.
The deal has an equal (though different) upside for the Leafs, who clearly are looking to slow down on GM Brian Burke’s “fast-track rebuild” philosophy and invest more in a core of youngsters that now includes the 6-foot-5, 21-year-old Colborne (picked 16th overall by Boston in 2008) and 20-year-old NCAA defenseman Jake Gardiner, acquired in the Francois Beauchemin trade earlier this month. Both youngsters are skilled offensive contributors, but both seem to need more marinating in Burke’s truculence vat to become more aggressive on the ice.
The draft pick Burke has landed from Boston also has an even bigger upside: combined with Philadelphia’s first-rounder acquired in the Kris Versteeg trade, Toronto now will have two picks, likely in the Nos. 21-30 range. Burke could package both of those together (or one with a roster player or prospect) to move higher up in the first round if he so chooses.
Of course, just as there’s a potential downside Kaberle could be a poor fit in Boston and walk away as an unrestricted free agent this summer, the downside for Toronto is that none of the picks or prospects they’ve stocked up on ever pan out.
In sum, neither the Leafs nor the Bruins are the clear-cut winner in this trade. For Boston, it’s a sacrifice of the future for “the now” and vice-versa for Toronto.
And for the millions – and millions – of both teams’ fans, that’s cause for optimism.
BRUINS BUSY WITH A SECOND TRADE
The Bruins also added productive center Rich Peverley and big minor league defenseman Boris Valabik for Mark Stuart and Blake Wheeler. The trade is certainly designed to help fill another hole in Boston’s lineup that has been in need of a fix since Marc Savard sustained his latest concussion.
In losing four of their past six games, the Bruins had come to the conclusion that something needed to be changed – and fast. Rather than wait until the trade deadline when assets could become more expensive to acquire, Chiarelli grabbed the bull by the horns and acquired key pieces that will play a major role in whether or not the Bruins can hang onto top spot in the Northeast Division.
Losing UFA-to-be Stuart and RFA-to-be Wheeler also shaves the cap space necessary for Boston to fit Kaberle in this season and makes room for them to start negotiating an extension with him (or others) this summer.
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. Power Rankings appear Mondays, his blog appears Thursdays and his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays.
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