|Tomas Kaberle could be on the move at the NHL draft in Montreal. (Sun Media/Greg Henkenhaf)
MONTREAL -- The Tomas Kaberle sweepstakes are getting hot and heavy, with the Boston Bruins apparently leading the charge.
The Bruins have offered young forward Phil Kessel to the Maple Leafs as part of a package that would see Kaberle shipped to Beantown. The reported offer had the Bruins dangling Kessel for Kaberle and the Leafs first-round pick, No. 7 overall.
That pick, however, is a stumbling block, as the Leafs do not want to include it in the package.
"The No. 7 pick is not in play," a Leaf source said this morning.
When asked about a potential Kessel-for-Kaberle package earlier today, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli replied: "No comment."
With Leafs general manager Brian Burke having contacted at least four other teams who have shown interest, the Kaberle trade talks likely will be quite active in the hours leading up to the opening of the 2009 entry draft at 7 p.m. this evening at the Bell Centre.
Burke already has been in contact with Kaberle's handlers to inform them that a significant offer has been tabled for their client.
Kaberle is said to be steadfast in his desire to remain in Toronto, a wish Burke, to this point, has been sympathetic towards. The Leafs would rather deal Pavel Kubina and his $5 million US salary, feeling the loss of Kaberle would leave them in the unenviable position of scrambling to replace his nifty puck-moving skills all summer.
But Burke was forced to rethink that strategy yesterday when he received a "significant offer" for the veteran defenceman, one that caused him to huddle with his braintrust for discussion.
The Bruins were interested in Kaberle back at the March trade deadline but Burke refused to ask the Czech blueliner to waive his no-trade clause out of respect, feeling those players who have no-trade clauses earned them.
But, like Kubina, Kaberle's no-trade clause becomes moot from the start of the draft through Aug. 15, giving Burke the flexibility to freely move him.
Kaberle has two years remaining on a deal that will pay him $4.25 million US per season. Meanwhile, reports out of Boston suggest Kessel, a restricted free agent, might be seeking $5 million US per.
Kessel, 21, scored 36 goals in 70 games for the Bruins last season.
There also are rumours that the Atlanta Thrashers could be one of the teams interested in Kaberle. The two teams have held discussions about the No. 4 overall pick, which is held by the Thrashers.
The Leafs covet Brandon forward Brayden Schenn, who is expected to go in the Top 5. Brayden is the brother of Toronto defenceman Luke Schenn.
Whether the Kessel deal, in fact, comes to fruition or not, it will make for an interesting day.