Kubina's stock on the rise

STEVE SIMMONS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

Suddenly, Pavel Kubina, the poster boy for salary cap excess, is opening up a world of possibilities for the still-breathing Maple Leafs.

It isn't necessarily about now. But it will be fascinating to watch the future unfold.

Kubina, in pairing with Tomas Kaberle, in finding more power-play time, in utilizing the monstrous shot that went missing from most of two seasons in Toronto, has emerged as a player of interest. For the moment, he neither seems all that slow or all that overpaid.

In fact, you can make the case right now that his value to the Leafs is greater than or certainly equal to that of Bryan McCabe, a defenceman himself who earns more and scores less often than his fellow criticized brethren.

All of which raises a question: When the summer arrives, and with it a new general manager, who stays and who goes?

And if rebuilding is the plan, can you afford to keep both Kubina and McCabe? Or do you have to decide between one or the other?

The interim general manager, Cliff Fletcher, thought he had a deal made for Kubina at the trade deadline. Fletcher's exasperation over the miscommunication was quite evident.

The thinking, at least, seemed clear for the future: If he couldn't trade Kubina at the deadline and there was some interest in him then, the time to trade him would be in the short window allowed by the Leafs missing the playoffs.

And the assumption here is -- despite brave and wondrous performances of late -- that the Leafs have no chance of qualifying for the post-season.

Which means what? Whatever price the Leafs could have fixed for Kubina at the deadline has to have risen in recent days. Because in the games that have mattered most, he has been a significant factor. Surely, other teams have noticed that.

And by that alone, does that make Kubina someone the Leafs will want to trade even moreso now, or make him someone that the new Leafs administration will want to hang on to?

Kubina, at 30, is one year younger than McCabe. And at $5 million a year for the next two seasons, he is contractually obligated to the team for one season fewer than McCabe's deal and for $750,000 less in those final two seasons on the salary cap.

Once a viable option, buying out Kubina no longer seems to make much sense. Buying out McCabe, who has a no-movement clause in his contract, is very expensive -- a $2.87-million cap hit for the next six years seems hardly worth it.

The Kubina-McCabe decision -- combined they are not worth $10.75 million of cap money a year -- is not the only either/or the Leafs may be looking at in the off-season.

The same kind of determination may have to be made in the case of Jason Blake and Darcy Tucker. Some Leaf people will tell you you can have one of Blake or Tucker on your team, but you don't want both.

Both need to be on the first power play to be effective. Both are the kind of singular players who can't create much on their own. Tucker is 32. Blake is 34. Tucker is signed for the next three seasons. Blake is signed for the next four, his final year expiring just before his 39th birthday.

Tucker is paid $3 million a year. Blake's contract averages out at $4 million a year. Tucker has a no-trade agreement, Blake doesn't, but some believe him to be untradable. Both are minus players. Neither have scored more than 11 goals at even strength this season and both, over the course of the whole season, have underperformed.

The summer of either-or approaches. Either Kubina or McCabe. Either Tucker or Blake. At least in the case of Andrew Raycroft, the math is rather simple. The Leafs will pay Raycroft $666,666 in each of the next two seasons to go away. Then, they will pay Justin Pogge $550,000 to take his place.

In other words, they'll save $1 million on a backup goaltender and be able to use that money elsewhere. It may be the only math these days that works for the Leafs


Videos

Photos