Kaberle triggered trade talk

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:27 AM ET

For a tantalizing 24 hours, Brian Burke had the valued card that he had so badly wanted to play in the months counting down to Wednesday's NHL trade deadline.

Tomas Kaberle and agent Rick Curran put themselves in the big game, letting it be known they'd relent and waive his no-trade clause, pending Burke's exploratory talks with three select clubs.

But Burke either could not make something happen with such a limited field or had too little time, and the day ended with Kaberle aboard the flight to Boston with the rest of the Leafs for Thursday's game.

Kaberle has been singin' in the rain for the five years the Leafs have missed the playoffs, convincing himself that sunny skies were coming back.

But now the longest-serving Leaf has started looking for bus shelters. Does it mean he will be gone in the summer when a clause in the deal opens a trade window for all 29 teams? Or will Burke, who has moved almost every player pre-dating 2008-09, see Kaberle as part of the long-term solution?

Most believe Burke could have used Kaberle to get back prospects and picks on Tuesday, or straight up for one of the first-rounders sacrificed for Phil Kessel, a face-saving act that the GM has angrily denied he'd make. But the question remains, how best to utilize the asset of a defenceman who leads his team in scoring and has a cap friendly salary of $4.25 million US next year.

"His agent, who is a good guy, whispered to us that there were three locations where he was very interested in going and could we explore those," Burke said. "We did and there wasn't a deal.

"The key for me is we respected the no-trade clause. It was a small number of teams and I generally will not accept less than 10. A player can't handcuff you that way. This was a rare case where Tomas, a special player, asked us to look into three cases and we did."

Burke would not reveal the teams and the trail was clouded by a number of clubs making deals for defencemen yesterday.

His lips pursed firmly, Kaberle talked for the first time of moving after steadfastly declaring he wanted to end his career where he started in 1998.

"Burkie is fair to me and I'm fair to him. If there's a good deal on the table, I would consider it," Kaberle said about 90 minutes before the deadline.

Many people wonder why the 32-year-old wouldn't take the chance to win a Stanley Cup elsewhere, given the huge reconstruction facing the Leafs in coming years. And he's now forfeited a say in his destination this summer.

Kaberle admitted five seasons out of the playoffs has worn on him.

"Months watching other teams play ... it's hard on yourself, your teammates and it's part of your life off the ice, too. A lot of (teammates) have been moved already. There will be a lot of young guys getting chances and that's harder for the veterans. But I still battle hard every day. We'll see what happens in the off-season, but I still want to be part of it."

One school of thought says Kaberle doesn't fear being dropped in some NHL outpost this summer, figuring such teams know he will be unrestricted in 2011-12 and will steer clear of trading for him.

Burke won't rule out re-upping Kaberle's contract, saying his plan of building from the blue line out already has created a defence he would rank with any in the league; a healthy Mike Komisarek and the puck-moving Kaberle augmenting Dion Phaneuf, Francois Beauchemin and Luke Schenn.

If true, the next stage is getting some firepower up front, but the problem remains that Kaberle is the logical trade bait to get it.


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