|Will the fallout from the Ilya Kovalchuk contract case affect any plans for the Maple Leafs to trade Tomas Kaberle? (DAVE ABEL/QMI AGENCY)
No one can say for sure if the Ilya Kovalchuk saga has thwarted the Maple Leafs from finding a trading partner for Tomas Kaberle, but his agent insists it's not the defenceman trying to fix his own destination.
"Let's be clear, there is no list of teams coming from us now and never has been other than what we submitted (at the trade deadline) a couple of years ago," Rick Curran said Monday from his office in Devon, Pa. "People shouldn't be confused by someone else throwing something out there, trying to create a market."
The Leafs are down to five days to deal Kaberle before his no-trade window shuts again and he would be Leafs property for one more year at $4.25 million US. The return in a trade would presumably be a scoring forward, but it's unclear whether Monday's rejection of the Kovalchuk contract by the NHL will cause further delays as a few teams re-visit the Russian star and put Kaberle on the backburner.
Kaberle -- and most other people -- were so convinced that a trade was imminent last month that he began speaking about his 12-year Leafs career in the past tense and strongly hinted he'd like a shot with a team that was closer to a Stanley Cup than the rebuilding Leafs.Thus the speculation that general manager Brian Burke is trying to get him to a contender as a kind of reward for good service since he made the team as a dark horse at camp in 1998.
"The situation as this week goes on is no different than other weeks," Curran said. "The player is owned by the Leafs and the only way we'd be aware of a change is if we were provided permission to talk to a team or if maybe the Leafs were interested in talking about a contract extension."
Curran said neither of those factors are in play right now.
"Tomas' sentiments (to play for a winner) are shared by most players who are in his situation," Curran added. "That by no means implies we have a list of contenders or non-contenders. Who can really say anymore who is a contender and who isn't (given the upsets in last year's playoffs)?"
The Leafs have, in large part, already positioned themselves for life after Kaberle, by bringing in Brett Lebda as a free agent top-six defenceman and playing up the attributes of youngsters such as 6-foot-6 Keith Aulie. And Burke's wish to be a playoff force in 2010-11 will not become reality without at least one more quality forward from a Kaberle trade.
Yet Kaberle has been halfway out the door before in deals that would have involved Jeff Carter and Eric Lindros. There has been some talk that a Kaberle-to-Boston package might be put together to land Marc Savard as a centre for ex-Bruin Phil Kessel.
"If nothing happens, he will come back to the Leafs as he's suggested he wanted all along," Curran said.
As for rumours that Kaberle had a feud going with Toronto coach Ron Wilson, those close to the situation say that was an inevitable by-product of the Leafs missing the playoffs a fifth straight year and that the two can co-exist.