After years of speculation long time Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Tomas Kaberle has agreed to waive his no-trade clause.
The Leafs have shipped Kaberle to the Boston Bruins in exchange for prospect forward Joe Colborne, the Bruins first round pick in the 2011 entry draft plus a conditional pick dependent upon Kaberle re-signing with the Bruins this summer.
Kaberle, 32, had spent his entire 12-year NHL career with the Maple Leafs. He was one of their longest-serving players and second-highest scoring defensemen in team history, with 520 points.
For several years Kaberle had been linked to other teams in trade rumors but deals failed to materialize, due in part to his “no-trade” clause and salary ($4.25 million per season) in his current contract.
What's different this time is he's in the final year of his contract and eligible for unrestricted free agency. While Leafs GM Brian Burke had suggested last year he might re-sign Kaberle it appears relations between the two camps had cooled and the blueliner would probably test this summer's free agent market.
The Bruins were amongst the few teams Kaberle was believed willing to waive his trade clause for, and he should address that club's need for another experienced, mobile defenseman. While the Kaberle camp hasn't talked contract with the Bruins reportedly there's interest on both sides to do so, which could see him remain in Boston beyond this season, depending of course on their available cap space and his salary demands.
Of course his performance down the stretch and in the playoffs will go a long way toward determining if he has a future in Boston beyond this season.
Kaberle is a skilled puck-moving defenseman, whom the Leafs could find difficult replacing after this season either via trade or free agency. He's not a particularly physical blueliner but the Bruins have acquired him for his playmaking skills to help take some of the burden off team captain Zdeno Chara, not for his ability to land thunderous bodychecks.
This move could significantly improve Boston's offensive attack, as well as their chances to clinch the Northeast Division and for a lengthy playoff run this spring.
The return for Kaberle – Colborne, a first rounder and a possible second rounder if he re-signs – continues the rebuilding process the Leafs have engaged in recently, shipping out veterans for young, affordable players, prospects and picks.
Colborne, the Bruins first round pick in 2008, is a big center (6-5, 213) who has considerable promise. The 21-year-old was playing for the Bruins AHL farm team as a rookie so he'll likely be sent to the Leafs farm team for the remainder of the season.
The Leafs were lacking a first round draft pick this year having dealt theirs to Boston in the Phil Kessel trade nearly two years ago. While the Bruins pick will probably be in the lower third of the first round it's better than no first rounder at all.
**Update** Actually this is the second first round pick in this year's draft Burke acquired, having picked up the Flyers first rounder in the Kris Versteeg deal earlier in the week. Burke could either use both picks to select prospects, or shop one or both picks to perhaps add a salaried player. My thanks to Jeff McCarthy for the correction.