Kaberle a good soldier ’til the end

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:33 PM ET

The moment it became clear that Tomas Kaberle was not going to be a part of the Maple Leafs future was the moment general manager Brian Burke rolled up his sleeves.

Faced with losing Kaberle for nothing as an unrestricted free-agent on July 1, it was crucial that the Leafs got something in return for one of their longest-serving veterans.

“The player did not want to leave,” Burke said on Friday.

“I want to be clear on that. We spoke with (Kaberle’s) agent a few weeks ago and he asked for an extension several times.

“I didn’t think we were in a position to meet with his demands.”

What happened next was the genesis of Kaberle becoming a Bruin, a stint that began Friday night in Ottawa. Kaberle’s camp requested that the process to begin with the Boston and while Burke said he had interest from multiple teams, he obliged.

“Tomas was owed the right to get to the team he wanted to get to if humanly possible,” Burke said. “He did enough here in blue and white that he deserved that.

“We set our price and we’ve been working with Boston for some time now. And (Thursday night) they met our price.”

Ideally, just as in the deal that sent Kris Versteeg to Philadelphia, Burke would have added a roster player to help the team immediately. But in both the Versteeg and Kaberle moves, he felt the value acquired was too strong to pass up.

‘Right player’

“You might want to get assets that are closer to playing, but you don’t always get what you want,” Burke said. “The Rolling Stones song is right. It’s not what we wanted precisely, but it’s assets in the shopping cart. Ideally, you turn them into the right player.”

From Burke’s perspective, getting deals done days prior to the deadline provides added value.

He said Friday that not only was the package he received for Kaberle better than what he would expect to get on the final day, it was better than anything offered to him last summer.

As busy as the Leafs have been, there is still 10 days remaining until the Feb. 28 trade deadline and the Leafs GM intends to remain active.

With two first-round picks — including the one acquired yesterday from Boston and another in the Versteeg deal — the Leafs will try to either trade up or turn them into a player.

“We are going to try to add a defenceman,” Burke said.

“Obviously when you take Tomas out of the lineup, it takes some minutes and some skill out of the lineup. I don’t know if we will be able to do that, but we will try.”

The most pressing concern is in net, where Ben Scrivens is likely to be called up from the Marlies to back up James Reimer Saturday night while J-S Giguere (groin), Jonas Gustavsson (heart) and Jussi Rynnas (finger) all recover from their various ailments.

“We’ve gone from a lengthy depth chart to a M*A*S*H ward,” Burke said.

rob.longley@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/longleysunsport


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