|In the two months since Tomas Kaberle's trade window was propped open, the thinking was Leafs GM Brian Burke was holding out for a top-six forward for the veteran defenceman. Now he seems to be open to taking a package of prospects and draft picks. (GREG HENKENHAF/QMI Agency)
Brian Burke is expanding his wish list for Tomas Kaberle, but it could be at the expense of a serious playoff push for the Maple Leafs.
In the two months since Kaberle's trade window was propped open, the thinking was Burke was holding out for a top-six forward for the veteran defenceman, not a 50-goal scorer of course, but at least a seasoned winger or centre to support the youngsters up front.
Though the general manager now has a better chance at seeing his bold post-season talk come true next spring, a top-eight finish remains a long shot if Toronto can't generate more goals to back up its improving blueline and netminding.
On the Fan 590 Friday morning, Burke once more spoke of the difficulty he's having getting a Kaberle deal done, but said he would try to parlay him for help in other areas.
"(A deal) could be for a futures' package, a high draft pick and a quality young player," Burke said, adding the Leafs just might open camp in a few weeks with the roster that was re-vamped at the draft, featuring newcomers Kris Versteeg and Colby Armstrong.
Asked by QMI Agency if he was lowering his sights with Kaberle as midnight Sunday approaches, Burke replied: "We will trade the player if we get an offer that makes sense."
Getting a draft pick or picks in return for Kaberle would be a popular move in many quarters with so many fans still sore at Burke for perceived over-spending on Phil Kessel (two firsts and a second to Boston). The addition of second overall Tyler Seguin to the Bruins' attack might alone end up being the difference in that club getting ahead of the Leafs in April.
But seeking a draft package would certainly open the Kaberle market up a bit. The short list of clubs interested in him include New Jersey and Los Angeles, each trying to put the pieces back together for an Ilya Kovalchuk deal in the next few days.
"Both the teams involved in the Kovalchuk situation would have been more involved," agreed Burke. "But I don't see it as fatal or hindering the situation."
Kaberle and his cap-friendly $4.25-million US salary will come back into the fold if there's no deal.
Burke maintained the Leafs are still trying to get better right away rather than go through the multi-year rebuild. He's looking more for a winger this year, but conceded his concern at first and second line centre, where young Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri just aren't big men, despite dedicated off-season weight training.
"It's up to Nazem," Burke said about the 2009 first-round pick making the full-time jump from junior this year. "We challenged him to get stronger and he's done that. He's got core stronger, more explosive. He looks fabulous (at the club's rookie evaluation camp and in this week's informal club workouts).
"For our franchise going forward, it would be a real bonus."
The Leafs might also have uncovered a gem in recently signed NCAA left winger Jerry D'Amigo and made an intriguing free agent signing up front with German Marcel Mueller. But that's a lot of 'ifs' that won't necessarily add up to the minimum 90 points most NHL teams require to get past the first week in April.