Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Tomas Kaberle popped up into the NHL rumor mill once again, this time courtesy of a recent Toronto Sun article claiming the blueliner had told close friends he was fed up with coach Ron Wilson, speculating it would likely lead to Kaberle’s departure this summer.
Kaberle and Wilson quickly denied the report, but that led the Globe & Mail’s James Mirtle to wonder if Leafs players might be weary of Wilson’s hard-nosed coaching, including his public critiques of the team’s performance following losses.
Don’t expect Wilson to go anywhere as GM Brian Burke has frequently voiced support for his coach, but Kaberle could indeed be moved in the off-season, although perhaps not for the reason stated by the Sun.
With the Leafs missing the playoffs again this season it triggers a two-month window in Kaberle’s contract where the team can move him anywhere without his consent.
Burke hinted at the trade deadline he might try to re-sign Kaberle to an extension this summer, but if the two cannot reach an agreement, the Leafs GM would entertain offers for the veteran defenseman.
• As the Tampa Bay Lightning limp toward the end of this season, reports are popping up suggesting changes could be coming to the club this summer.
It’s believed the Lightning will hire a new GM and coach, which would stoke another round of Vincent Lecavalier trade rumors.
Sportsnet’s Jim Kelley decided to get an early start ramping up those rumors, suggesting in a recent SI.com article the Lightning should try to move Lecavalier as soon as possible in the off-season, claiming there are teams “beyond Montreal” that would be willing to take on the remainder of his 11-year, $7.7 million per season contract in order to get above the cap floor.
Kelley acknowledged Lecavalier’s no-movement clause, but suggested the club should pressure him to waive it in order to free up valuable cap space to re-sign key players like Steven Stamkos – who is up after next season – and address other roster needs.
Kelley believes buying out the final four years of Lecavalier’s contract could be “doable for certain teams,” suggesting Toronto could “certainly afford it” and adding that market might appeal to the big center.
Anything’s possible, but it remains difficult for the Lightning to move Lecavalier. They cannot threaten to waive or demote him (as they did two years ago with Dan Boyle) because of his movement clause and the length of his deal.
If the Lightning could convince Lecavalier to accept a trade he’d ultimately determine his destination, making it even tougher to find suitors for his services.
Kelley’s mistaken that Toronto, with nearly $50 million committed to 16 players next season, can afford Lecavalier, unless Burke sent considerable salary the other way. Even then the Leafs GM might balk at carrying such a hefty contract for such a lengthy period. That, of course, assumes Lecavalier would even accept a trade to Toronto, where he wouldn’t enjoy the anonymity he has in Tampa Bay.
Stars management wasn’t pleased with Ribeiro recently missing a team meeting, resulting in him being scratched for a game against the Anaheim Ducks.
With Richards taking over the first-line center role and young Jamie Benn being groomed for second-line duty, it’s possible the Stars will shop Ribeiro, who is currently in the second year of a five-year, $25-million contract.
However, that will depend on how contract extension talks go this summer with Richards, who has one year remaining at $7.8 million on his current pact. It is possible Richards could be shopped instead of Ribeiro if the Stars are unable to re-sign the former Conn Smythe winner to an affordable deal.
With 90 points this season, Richards is on pace to top his career-best of 91. Ribeiro’s numbers are down this season due to him missing 15 games with a throat injury, but he led the Stars in scoring the previous three seasons.
For the cost-conscious Stars, who go into next season with a self-imposed budget of $45 million, of which they’ve already committed more than $38 million to for 15 players, this will be an important decision.
Despite Ribeiro’s regular season consistency, he lacks the playoff credentials of Richards; and if the Stars can get the latter inked to an affordable (possibly front-loaded) extension, they could peddle the former in hopes of either landing a puck-moving defenseman or freeing up the money to sign one via free agency.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays and Thursdays 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.