Kabby trade on horizon?

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:10 AM ET

MONTREAL — About four months ago, Tomas Kaberle’s handlers forwarded a list of teams the veteran defenceman might be willing to waive his no-trade clause for.

Kaberle didn’t really want to leave Toronto. It has been his hockey home since 1998.

But by offering up a list of potential NHL destinations, Kaberle merely was trying to make Brian Burke’s job easier in case an overwhelming offer reached the table of the Maple Leafs general manager prior to the March trade deadline.

Burke appreciated the gesture. But Kaberle was not going anywhere at the time. In Burke’s mind, if a player had earned a no-trade clause, it should be honoured.

But now the environment has changed.

When the 2009 NHL entry draft kicks off at 7 p.m., Friday night at the Bell Centre, a window that runs through Aug. 15 kicks in, one in which the no-movement clauses of both Kaberle and fellow blueliner Pavel Kubina become moot.

Truth be told, the Leafs would rather move Kubina. If Kaberle were to be traded, Burke admitted he would spend the summer attempting to find another defenceman with Kaberle’s puck-moving skills, not to mention the fact that Kaberle’s average salary of $4.25 million US makes him a relative bargain.

At least that was the organization’s thinking.

Until yesterday afternoon.

That is when the Leafs received a significant offer for Kaberle, one that involved a player and a draft pick. Burke was so intrigued, he immediately contacted four other teams in an attempt to up the ante.

By the time the clock strikes midnight tonight, Kaberle’s career as a Maple Leaf may be finished.

That a deal might occur at the Bell Centre, Kaberle’s favourite road arena, only adds yet another angle to this potentially juicy story.

“We got an unexpected, unsolicited offer on Tomas Kaberle,” Burke said. “It was not my intention to look at moving him while we were here. We thought the best strategy was wait and see.

“My inclination still is that someone is going to have to blow our doors off to make this deal. It’s going to have to be a trade we absolutely feel we have to make. It’s got our attention. We’re listening now. The name that was thrown at us was important enough that we have to huddle on it.”

Burke added the deal “could get bigger.”

Back in 2008, the Philadelphia Flyers offered young stud forward Jeff Carter and a first-round pick for Kaberle. Then-GM Cliff Fletcher thought he had a done deal. All that it required was Kaberle’s OK.

Instead, he refused.

“I don’t know how many times I have to tell people,” Kaberle said at the time. “I want to be a Toronto Maple Leaf. That is why I re-signed here.”

Such loyalty, a rare trait in pro sports, nevertheless, generally was unappreciated by many patrons of Leafs Nation, who salivated at the thought of Carter in blue and white.

Wild rumour

Meanwhile recent reports suggested the Minnesota Wild were offering goalie Josh Harding and defenceman Marek Zidlicky. a rumour Burke brushed aside last week.

Some scuttlebutt in the lobby of the official NHL hotel last night speculated that perhaps Anaheim, Burke’s previous club, might move veteran Chris Pronger in a package for Kaberle. For the time being, take that for what it’s worth — a rumour that lacks teeth.

There were also reports that the Phoenix Coyotes had been talking with Burke about Kaberle.

For the record, Kaberle’s preference would be to remain in the Eastern Conference.


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