TORONTO - The worst-kept secret in hockey came to fruition Friday.
Tomas Kaberle is a Boston Bruin.
Gone is the franchise’s No. 11 all-time scorer.
Gone is the second-highest scoring defenceman in Maple Leafs history.
Gone is the final remaining dressing room thread — assistant coach Keith Acton being the exception — to the Pat Quinn era.
In what ended 18 months of Kaberle-to-the-Bruins speculation, the Leafs shipped the veteran defenceman and his 520 career points to Boston in exchange for the Bruins first-round pick in 2011; 6-foot-6 forward Joe Colborne and a conditional pick in 2012. The conditional pick reportedly becomes a second rounder if Kaberle, a pending unrestricted free agent, either: a) re-signs with the Bruins or b) helps Boston reach the Stanley Cup final.
“We are happy to add another first-round draft pick and a solid prospect in Joe Colborne,” Leaf general manager Brian Burke said in a statement. “He brings a unique combination of skill, vision and size.
“On behalf of our entire organization I would like to thank Tomas for all of his many outstanding contributions to the Toronto Maple Leafs on the ice, and in the community. He has been a model citizen and it’s never easy to trade a player that has conducted himself as professionally as Tomas has for the past 13 years.”
The Bruins and Leafs were close to a deal 20 months ago, come to terms on a swap that shipped Phil Kessel to the Leafs for Kaberle. But the deal broke down when the two teams disagreed on which side would receive a first-round pick as part of the package.
Of course, the Kaberle trade chatter cuts much deeper than that.
Remember three years ago? He thought he was being loyal by refusing to waive his no trade in 2008, squashing a deal that would have netted the Leafs Jeff Carter and a first-round pick from the Philadelphia Flyers.
In the end, he was ripped for that decision. No surprise there.
Like Mats Sundin, Kaberle was never fully appreciated by members of Leafs nation, who chose to concentrate on his shortcomings rather than his strengths.
As a result, we heard how bad he was in his own end. And that he didn’t shoot enough. And that he wasn’t vocal enough.
Blah blah blah.
Those claims are all legit. No argument here.
At the same time, Kaberle was the type of puck-moving defenceman that is such a rare breed in the modern-day National Hockey League. While his penchant for passing up shots was indeed aggravating, his playmaking abilities could not be questioned.
Indeed, almost every season, he finished among the top 10 in NHL defencemen scoring and assists.
Despite the fact that his many critics will be glad to see him go, there is no doubt that he will be missed.
“Tomas was a great mentor,” said defenceman Luke Schenn. “He taught me a lot, not just by watching, but by pulling me aside and discussing various situations.
“We’ve been hearing about this possibility for a while. As tough as it is to see him go, at least he now has the chance to go somewhere and have a shot at the Stanley Cup.”
While the Leafs received a first-round pick in return, keep in mind that it is not the same selection they sent to Boston 17 months ago as part of the Kessel deal. As a result, unless the Leafs pass Boston in the standings (an unlikely event, to be sure), the pick will be lower than the one they traded away in the Kessel package.
The Leafs now will have two picks that likely will end up being near the bottom of the first round, having picked up Philadelphia’s first rounder as part of the Kris Versteeg deal on Monday. Don’t be surprised if GM Brian Burke packages those two to either move up in the draft or as part of a subsequent deal for a prospect and/or established player.
The 21-year-old Colborne was drafted in the first round, 16th overall, in 2008. At 6-5, 216 pounds, Colborne is a big forward who doesn’t always play to his size.
“He’s a good playmaker but he can be soft,” an NHL scout said Friday afternoon. “He doesn’t always play to his size.”
In 55 AHL games with the Providence Bruins this season, the University of Denver product scored 12 goals and added 14 assists with a -16 plus/minus rating.
Prior to his stint in the minors, Colborne scored 32 goals and added 50 assists in 79 games with the University of Denver, where he spent one season as a teammate of Maple Leafs centre Tyler Bozak.
Follow Mike Zeisberger on Twitter: twitter.com/zeisberger