Kaberle sweepstakes begin

Toronto Maple Leafs' Tomas Kaberle takes a breather during the teams skate at Scotiabank Place....

Toronto Maple Leafs' Tomas Kaberle takes a breather during the teams skate at Scotiabank Place. (Errol McGihon/QMI AGENCY)

STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:39 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA - The Tomas Kaberle sweepstakes is alive and well with at least six suitors — and maybe more.

It’s no longer a case of if Kaberle, the veteran defenceman, but almost certainly when he will be dealt by the Maple Leafs.

“Based on the interest already, I’d say there is significant interest in Tomas Kaberle,” said Brian Burke, going public with the sporting auction after the NHL general manager’s meetings Wednesday. Burke has sent details of Kaberle’s contract and the trade restrictions within it to all 29 NHL teams, hoping to encourage something of a bidding war for the longtime Leaf.

Ideally, Burke would best work with Kaberle’s agent, Rick Curran, to secure the best price in any deal. With one year left on an expiring contract, Kaberle would be worth a lot more in a trade having agreed to new contract, rather than go somewhere for the short term.

Burke is clear, though, in saying he’s not planning to trade Kaberle just for the sake of trading him: He’ll only make a deal if it improves the Leafs in any in which they need improvement. And topping his list is finding a winger in his 20s, preferably with some size, who can score goals.

Burke did say that if a deal for Kaberle wasn’t completed around the NHL draft weekend, he would begin discussions with Curran about extending Kaberle’s contract for the long term.

“If we turn Tomas into an asset that makes us better with him out of the lineup, we’ll do that,” Burke said. “Otherwise, we’re content to keep him...It’s my job to listen.”

Burke said he wasn’t necessarily looking to translate Kaberle into a first-round pick that will be two years or more away from developings. “There seems to be this misconception out there that I’m dying to get a first-round pick somewhere. We paid the price tag for Phil Kessel. We’d do it again tomorrow. We didn’t envision the pick would be where it is.

“The reason I want to get a first-round pick is not to get the media off my back. It’s so my scouts don’t sit there with my thumb up their butts for three and a half hours (at the draft)...We’re picking 62 and we like the group and I think we’ll get a real good prospect at 62.”

Burke did bite his tongue on one matter after the GM meetings. It’s clear he’s upset with Hockey Night In Canada and the number of shots he and the Leafs have been taking from on-air staff. He wants to talk about that — just not at this time.

“We have been getting a lot of shots on Hockey Night In Canada and I don’t think the Stanley Cup finals is the approprioate place to start throwing hand grenades back,” said Burke. “But I’m pretty sour about it — I can tell you that.”

For once, Don Cherry was silent on the matter. When asked about the Burke siuation, he offered up a no comment.


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