Monday, August 16, 2010

Kaberle Stays - Who Goes?

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.

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Destroyko said...

At my last check, I believe the Islanders went over the cap floor with the trade for Wizniewski and buyout of Witt. Could be wrong on that but in any event they're close enough that they don't need to make any trades for the purpose of achieving that level.

Either one of the Phaneuf or Komisarek acquisitions could be judged to be a forgiveable mistake on Burke's part with some redeeming qualities. Doing both, however, was a colossal error that will handicap the club for the next three years.

Anonymous said...

Those guys are expensive but not a handicap. Once Finger is off the books and Phaneuf gets 47 points all of it will get forgoten.

Anonymous said...

I agree, Phaneuf is in a special category, he's an elite player. You can't complain about his money. Truly I think the D is paid pretty fairly. Sure Finger is a high price but he was coming off a good year with the Av's - any team wouldve signed him close to those numbers. JFJ was an idiot sure, but he wasn't too far off.. I think the D is pretty solid. It totally will depend on the injury situation.
If there's any players to go I think it wil be Finger first. Let us not forget Burke managed to get Blakes contract out of town (which was a miracle) .. If the stakes are high enough, the pot sweet enough (Bobby Ryan) we may even see Schenn moved.
But the D does look pretty impressive on paper, especially if Aulie blossoms!
Kaberle/Komisarek/Beauchemin/Schenn and Dion... That's pretty damn solid! Gunnarson looked great last year too. But I think ur right tho, he might have a shaky year finding an identity on this team like Schenn. But let's imagine Schenn keeps growing in confidence, like he has since Dions arrival. That gunnar stays as poised as last year and gives us two great puck movers. Lebda is steady, coming from detroits elite system. And finally let's imagine Aulie is the horse Burke thinks he is when he commited major theft from the Calgary Flames in that ridiculous trade (also dare I say that Sutters reign as GM in Calgary is as horrendous, if not worse than the JFJ years, and by miles if so - what are they thinking with all these bad moves lately - Jokeanin, again? lol) .. If the D shows up like it appears on paper, we should be the rebound team of the year and finally break the curse and get in the playoffs - then all bets are off, anything can happen.

Anonymous said...

Trade Beauchemin for to the Caps for Brooks Laich. We get a good 2-way forward that can play both C & LW, to play on the 2nd/3rd lines and they get a veteran top 4 D-man who's got Stanley Cup experience and who'll be a leader on & off the ice.

Curt S said...

As much as I'd love to see Laich in the Blue and White, I don't see that happening after the season he had last year. You're absolutely right that it addresses both teams' needs though.

Destroyko said...

10:07 anonymous just defended the Finger signing and in doing so invalidated not only his opinion in this matter but in all things.

1) Cliff Fletcher made that signing, not JFJ.

2) Jeff Finger was not coming off a good year with the Avs, it was distinctly mediocre.

3) No team in the league could possibly have offered that amount of money to Finger. It was panned IMMEDIATELY as a bad signing.

The rest of the post is as clouded by Blue-and-White Glasses as you could ever hope for but that's forgiveable, if a little pityable. Defending Finger's contract is not.

Leafschatter said...

Good post. Something is defintely afoot given Burke chased Dan Hamhuis. Trying to sign Hamhuis was an attempted "win now" move. If Burke remains in "win now" mode, he may not try to trade Beauchemin.

Also, during training camp. Teams may wait for New Jersey to put Bryce Salvador on waivers to demote him.