Flyers glad to have Carter

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:20 PM ET

PHILADELPHIA — Sometimes, as the old adage says, the best trade is the one you don’t make.

Or, in the case of Paul Holmgren, don’t talk about.

Back in February 2008, interim Maple Leafs general manager Cliff Fletcher appeared to have a deal in place with Holmgren’s Philadelphia Flyers that would have sent defenceman Tomas Kaberle to the City of Brotherly Loathe in exchange for then-slumping forward Jeff Carter and a first-round draft pick.

Kaberle’s refusal to waive his no-trade clause made the entire discussion moot, leaving him in the eyes of many Leaf supporters as one of the villains who made up the despised Muskoka Five of the 2007-08 season.

Despite being the second-leading scorer among defencemen in franchise history behind only Hall of Famer Borje Salming, Kaberle has never been able to completely wriggle his way into the hearts of Leafs Nation, whose members legitimately claim he is too soft and doesn’t shoot enough.

At the same time, the way Toronto fans pile on him sometimes, you would think he is to blame for the Leafs’ 43-year Stanley Cup drought. He was even jeered during the Leafs’ 5-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators in the pre-season opener Tuesday night, a silly overreaction by the Air Canada Centre crowd, considering there were numerous others who stunk out the joint far worse than No. 15.

All the while, the possibility of a trade has loomed over Kaberle’s head ever since he scuttled the Flyers deal.

He almost found himself a Boston Bruin prior to the 2009 draft, then waited patiently this past summer while Brian Burke fielded offers for him, none of which was lucrative enough for Burke to pull the trigger. With his permission, he might still be moved before his contract runs out at the end of the 2010-11 campaign.

Through it all, Kaberle is still accused at times of not wanting to help accelerate the team’s rebuilding efforts because he did not agree to the reported trade that would have landed Carter and the first-rounder in Toronto.

Given the mass exodus of athletes busting a move out of this city in recent years — names like Chris Bosh, Tracy McGrady and A.J. Burnett come to mind — Kaberle must wonder why he gets dumped on for actually wanting to stay here.

Carter, meanwhile, has flourished in Philadelphia, where Flyers management realizes that, at 25, his best years are still ahead.

You would think Holmgren would be thrilled with the way things played out, thanks to Kaberle’s decision not to rubber-stamp the deal. But if that’s the case, he’s not saying.

“There are a lot of things that are talked about, lots of things discussed that people don’t know about,” said Holmgren, refusing to elaborate on The Trade That Didn’t Happen. “All that matters is that Jeff Carter is a Flyer. And he might be a Flyer for a long time.”

Holmgren didn’t come right out and say it but, listening to his comment that Carter could be around for a while, don’t be surprised if the Flyers make efforts to lock up the gifted sniper to a long-term deal. Carter has one season remaining on the three-year, $15-million US contract.

Holmgren’s Flyers meet the Maple Leafs in back-to-back pre-season games this week: Thursday at the John Labatt Centre in London, Friday at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. Coach Peter Laviolette will not publicly reveal if Carter, a London native, will play in front of his hometown fans.

Whether he does or not, Paul Holmgren is just happy to still have Jeff Carter in the traditional orange-and-black Flyers jersey.

All because Tomas Kaberle wanted to stay a Maple Leaf.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca


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