|Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Tomas Kaberle gets away from Philadelphia Flyers forward Ville Leino at the Air Canada Centre on April 6, 2010. (Getty Images)
Brian Burke will enjoy some July 4 fireworks, but whether it involves a Tomas Kaberle trade or landing another free agent remains to be seen.
Friday’s second round of UFA shopping passed quietly for the Maple Leafs, who made a major trade for winger Kris Versteeg the day before the market opened and signed winger Colby Armstrong on Thursday.
Burke said that any Kaberle deal will not likely happen now until next week.
“It’s the holiday weekend in the U.S., and some other free agent defencemen still have to find homes,” Burke said.
“When that settles, I’m sure teams (who didn’t fill their holes on the blueline) will take another look next week.”
Burke is adamant that he has set a price for Kaberle, will not take anything less and is not actively shop him.
But the Versteeg and Armstrong moves mean he definitely seeks a first or second line centre in return.
If nothing gets done, Burke does hold Kaberle’s rights for another year at an affordable $4.25 million US and the Leafs defence would be that much deeper. But it’s hard to believe a second summer will go by without cashing in Kaberle for help up front.
The 32-year-old’s trade window closes on Aug. 15. Burke will be on his phone all weekend, but doubted if any free agents will be signed until early next week if at all.
The longer Ilya Kovalchuk remains unsigned by a big market team in the U.S., the more speculation grows that the Leafs are somehow going to get involved in pursuing the 50-goal scorer.
But Burke balked at the kind of mega-contract numbers that such a deal would require and insists the Leafs aren’t involved.
“That is, unless the bottom falls right out of the market and he circles back around,” Burke said.
Changing the locks
At some National Hockey League arenas this time of year, candles are burning for free agents to come back to their old teams.
Defenceman Pavel Kubina was the latest to be humming the old Hagood Hardy Homecoming tune, returning on Friday to the site of his happiest NHL memories, the 2004 Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
A couple of ex-Leafs apparently got misty-eyed on Canada Day, too. Asked if any of the numerous unrestricted Leafs had picked up the phone, Burke said he heard from at least two of their agents, though he refused to divulge any player names. Not that it would have mattered.
“We’re moving forward now,” Burke said.
Some ex-Leafs would have been out of the question to return, such as struggling goaltender Vesa Toskala, who was moved to San Jose along with Jason Blake for Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
And as strong as winger Lee Stempniak finished with the Phoenix Coyotes, there wouldn’t likely be a lot of sentiment to bring him back, since Burke didn’t trade for him in the first place.
One candidate who probably wouldn’t mind returning is winger Alexei Ponikarovsky, whose wish for a long-term deal in Pittsburgh after being dealt for Luca Caputi likely won’t be realized. He was a steady 20-goal range producer for the Leafs for five years, but didn’t do much in his brief time as a Penguin. Agent Rick Curran could not be reached for comment.