Pronger talk irks Kaberle

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

A trade for Chris Pronger would not come without some turmoil in the Maple Leaf dressing room.

Sources say Tomas Kaberle is furious that his name has come up in a possible deal for the Conn Smythe Trophy finalist from last week's Stanley Cup final. Kaberle signed a four-year, $17 million-US deal in mid-season, but likely didn't expect he could be dealt before July 1 when a partial no-trade clause is activated.

At least one other prominent Leaf would have to be involved in the trade, one of Darcy Tucker or young guns Alex Steen or Matt Stajan. The Leafs waited years before finally drafting and developing such products as Steen and Stajan.

Yet a team with a near 40-year Cup curse can't be picky about which Norris Trophy winners fall into their lap. In the 52-year history of the award for the National Hockey League's best defenceman, no Toronto player has won it, while just four Leafs even have been linked to it; Red Kelly, Pierre Pilote and Brian Leetch as past winners, Randy Carlyle as a future pick.

So when Pronger, or his wife, decided one year of living in Edmonton was enough, it behooves the Leafs to re-evaluate their blueline plans. Pronger supposedly had narrowed his field to American teams, but agent Pat Morris indicated yesterday that Toronto qualified as south of the border on his NHL atlas.

One NHL executive believes all teams should look before they leap into the Pronger pool.

"Chris is one of the very best, but I think some teams will wait until free agency to get a really good defenceman and not have to give up anything," the executive said.

Ed Jovanovski, Jay McKee, Frantisek Kaberle and Pavel Kubina could be available on July 1.

But as for questions about Pronger's character, given the sudden urge to escape Alberta, the same exec said that wouldn't be an issue.

"I think teams interested in him would talk to him and get some satisfaction that he wants to stay, but I don't see that as a big concern."

The Leafs already are said to be up against a hefty offer from the Florida Panthers, believed to include defenceman Jay Bouwmeester and centre Nathan Horton. The Phoenix Coyotes also are in pursuit and if any snags prevent the Ottawa Senators from keeping one or both of Zdeno Chara and Wade Redden, look for them to make a pitch, too. However, Pronger is expected to bypass Bytown.


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