Well the draft has come and gone, and Tyler Seguin is now a Boston Bruin, but the flurry of activity that many expected to occur with all 30 of the NHL’s GMs under the same roof never took place, setting the stage for what should be a very busy week. With free agency looming on Thursday, teams will be looking to get themselves into the best possible bargaining position and we should see some trades, or at least some juicy rumors over the next 72 hours.
One of the most intriguing rumors that popped up during draft weekend was the possibility of Marc Savard leaving Boston. Similar to Tomas Kaberle, Savard has a limited NTC on his contract that changes as he gets deeper into the seven year deal he inked with the Bruins. Savard’s NTC states that at this point in his deal, he must name 5 teams that Boston would then be able to make deals with. Toronto is reportedly the leader on Savard’s list, due to family ties, while Montreal, Chicago, Philadelphia and Ottawa round out the list, according to the Toronto Star.
Now, you might be wondering how or why an All-Star center from the Eastern Conference finalists would randomly be thrown out as the subject of one of the hottest trade rumors in the early offseason, but when you look at the Bruins’ current situation, it starts to make a bit more sense. With Tyler Seguin, a natural center, now in the fold, and Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci also filling up slots down the middle, Savard’s big contract doesn’t seem to fit so nicely in Boston. Throw in the fact that Savard missed a ton of time this year after being on the receiving end of a cheap shot from Matt Cooke and a player that was once probably considered damn near untouchable on the B’s starts getting his name bounced around the hot stove. Nathan Horton’s acquisition also locks up another $4 million of Boston’s cap space with only 10 forwards currently under contract for the year and over $29 million already spent on their top 8 forwards.
Making this rumor even more intriguing is the fact that any move involving Toronto would almost certainly not include Tomas Kaberle, since the B’s would be looking to dump salary and don’t really need another offensive defenseman at this point. Nik Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski are names that have been tossed out, and perhaps a package of the two and a prospect would be close to what Boston would seek in return. All speculation of course, but the chatter on the rumor mill at the moment indicates that this deal, if there actually is a potential deal in the works, could come as soon as the next few days.
While Burke did make a few moves at the Staples Center, sending the rights to unsigned Boston College prospect Jimmy Hayes to Chicago in exchange for the 43rd overall pick, it was the move he didn’t make that had most people talking. Tomas Kaberle remains a Leaf, despite the fact that the window on his NTC is now wide open. There are a few things that have been stated ad nauseam over the last few weeks that haven’t changed much. First, Burke has made it clear he’s not shopping Kaberle, merely entertaining rumors, and that he’d be more than happy to head into next year with the Czech defenseman on the blueline. While myself and just about everyone else in Leaf Nation is hoping this is nothing more than smart posturing on Burke’s part, it is crucial to maintain that perception in order to drive up the asking price. There have also been at least 4 offers made for Kaberle’s services, one of which Burke referred to as an “insult.” Perhaps the biggest reason Kaberle didn’t get moved this weekend was the fact that the Leafs really weren’t looking for a draft pick in return, so there was no need to jump at an offer now rather than wait to see what else presents itself in the next few days/weeks.
The fact that Tomas is still on the roster has led to some very intriguing rumors popping up. One rumor involved Corey Perry and the Anaheim Ducks, which would make a bit of sense, considering that the Ducks will certainly be looking for help on the blueline after losing Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer in back to back offseasons. Burke will likely be waiting to see what unfolds in Anaheim before making any move with Kabby, since the Ducks still have unfinished business with Bobby Ryan and it’s no secret that the former Anaheim GM would be very keen on acquiring the young winger should the opportunity arise.
Now, I’m no wizard and I certainly can’t see the future, but I can dream, so here’s what my ideal scenario for the next week would look like for the Leafs. With about $12.3 million in cap space at the moment, and another $4.25 coming off assuming a trade for Kaberle becomes reality, Toronto will have plenty of room to maneuver, considering they don’t need to make any significant additions on the back end, and do already have 9 forwards under contract. Here’s where it gets interesting and the eternally optimistic Leaf fan in me gets excited.
When Phil Kessel was brought in from Boston, one of the big arguments against him was the fact that many thought he wouldn’t be able to be productive without Savard feeding him pucks. While he’s certainly taken steps to put that chatter to rest, the thought of him reunited with Savard in the Blue and White is certainly exciting. In a purely hypothetical scenario, say Boston were to accept a package of Kulemin and Grabovski, for argument’s sake. If that were to be the deal, Toronto would be taking on only an additional $1.1 million in salary, leaving them with still plenty of room. With no shortage of 3rd and 4th liners, it’s not like Burke has to go out and find a bunch of grinders to fill out his bottom 6. Should Kadri join the roster, coming with him would be his $1.7 million in salary. That would put the Leafs at 10 forwards, with $9.2 million in cap space still to play with. Now assume for a second that Kaberle gets dealt for a top six forward with a similar cap hit, no great stretch of the imagination, and the Leafs would be in a much better position offensively. They would also have plenty of cap room to toy with, and with Burke’s penchant for making a big splash, could potentially make a run at landing Ilya Kovalchuk, who might actually give Toronto a second look if the center that was with him for some of the most productive seasons of his career was joining the club as well. Pure speculation and nothing more than daydreaming at this point, but you’ve gotta admit that it wouldn’t be the strangest thing that’s ever happened since Brian Burke came to town (see: Dion Phaneuf, JS Giguere, etc.).
Strap in folks, with little to no movement in the opening days of the offseason, it’s shaping up to be a wild couple of days.
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