Much to my surprise Tomas Kaberle will be a Toronto Maple Leaf to start the season. Having Kaberle in the lineup doesn't disappoint me in the least - having a forward group that looks like ours does bothers me more than a little.
Having said this, what's done is done. Our powerplay quarterback will continue feathering passes to Dion Phaneuf on the man advantage and playing soft defense on the cycle. C'est la vie.
So where does this leave us? Currently, we're spending $27,775,000 on our 8 NHL defensemen and another $7,350,000 on goaltending: $35,125,000 of a 59.4 million dollar salary cap. That's a lot of money to keep pucks out of the net.
With Kaberle sticking around and three solid defensive prospects on entry-level salaries in Mikus, Holzer and Aulie, Burke will likely try and move a defenseman. Let's have a quick look at each guy's prospects.
Dion Phaneuf: Acquired last season from Calgary, Dion is the new Leafs captain and clearly isn't going anywhere. While he is being paid more money than he should be, he is still young, a punishing hitter and possesses a mammoth shot. I expect a bounce back from Phaneuf this year and expect that he'll be a Leaf for a long time to come.
Mike Komisarek: Komisarek was signed in the '09 offseason as an unrestricted free agent and like most UFAs, he got paid more than he should have. He's not a gross overpayment but he's going to be a tough contract for a lot of teams to take on. Given his injury history of late and his salary I don't see him having much in the way of trade value. If he goes anywhere it will be for spare parts and will be primarily a salary dump. A team like the New York Islanders may have interest in Komisarek as it will bring them closer to the salary floor and will provide a solid defensive defenseman to compliment Streit. Expect Komisarek to stick around in TO.
Tomas Kaberle: He stays... for now. Bob McKenzie opined that he thought Kaberle would move by March. I'm not one to argue with a man of his stature or prominence in the hockey world. Having said this, I feel it would be a shame to move Kaberle for anything less than what Burke was targeting this offseason. If you can't re-sign him then you have to move him unless we're really exceeding expectations during the season. His value will likely spike a little as teams begin realizing where they stand in the playoff race. He'll move then or not at all and the Leafs will likely get a 'futures' package back as teams will not want to lose roster players during a playoff push..
Francois Beauchemin: Probably the best candidate for a move. Beauchemin's contract is about right and he's proven to be a well-balanced and reliable defenseman over his career. For these reasons he has some legitimate trade value, particularly once Willie Mitchell finds a home. Beauchemin would likely fetch an underachieving winger that may need a change of scenery to spark some improvement in their game.
Jeff Finger: Poor Jeff Finger is a cautionary tale that GMs will use to scare overzealous agents. While he's a serviceable NHL defenseman his contract has put him in limbo for the better part of his tenure as a Leaf. He's untradeable at his current cap hit unless, again, a team like the Islanders wants him to meet the salary floor. Even still, you would likely have to throw in a pick to get rid of him. The one thing that may render this scenario less than completely absurd is that Finger's contract expires in the same season Tavares' first deal draws to a close, thus freeing up $3.5 million in a year when Garth Snow will definitely use it.
Luke Schenn: Burke has publicly stated that Schenn is very nearly untouchable. Then again, Burke has publicly stated a lot of things. Schenn has more value than any other defenseman not named Kaberle and if there's a player that could bring back a young top-six forward, it's him. He hit a road bump in his second year and GMs around the league will want to see if he bounces back before parting ways with serious assets but Schenn would certainly draw significant interest if he were put on the market. It would take a very strong offer to tempt Burke into trading Schenn and I don't really see that offer coming.
Brett Lebda: He just signed a deal that most feel is an overpayment. He isn't getting traded and if he were dealt at some point during the season it would be the trade deadline for a late round pick. He's a fine player but he's a player that is easily found and acquired at a very modest price. Don't expect to see Lebda go anywhere.
Carl Gunnarsson: At $800,000, Gunnarsson was probably our best all-around defenseman from Christmas onward last year. While I expect he'll probably hit a similar rut to the one Schenn hit last season, it would be a shame to see him go. This rut may work to the Leafs' advantage as it will keep his next contract modest and allow Gunnar to develop into a solid second pairing puck mover without the added pressure of a Finger-deal. Gunnarsson would probably draw interest from NHL GMs but not enough to warrant a deal given his meagre (by NHL standards) salary and his potential. Gunnarsson stays.
There you have it. I feel that Beauchemin is likely the guy to move (assuming 'move' doesn't mean to the AHL **cough, Finger, cough**). He's the one guy that could bring back a player that may make a difference to our forward corps and with the girth of depth we have on our backend someone has got to go.
Blue Chip Prospects is now on Twitter! Follow us at bcphockeyblog and we'll do our best to keep you up to date on all things Leafs, Fantasy Hockey or just otherwise interesting.