This is Brian Burke about 35 years ago. It was very likely around this time that someone last used "Brian Burke" and "likeable" in the same sentence. This weekend we’ll see the great man in action.
Brian Burke has to hit a home run this weekend. His signature moves so far in Toronto (Kessel offer sheet disguised as a trade; Phaneuf deal, Kadri selection, Gustavsson signing) offer a mixed bag result (Seguin alone would mean a tremendous amount to a rebuild) and there is pressure to improve immediately. It has always been thus in the Big Smoke.
What does he have in Kaberle? A well priced veteran ($4.25M cap hit) one year from free agency. He is perhaps slipping a little but remains an outstanding talent and should cover the bet (his cap hit) and could certainly help a very good team win the Stanley. San Jose? Maybe. Los Angeles? Possibly. Fact is, most NHL teams could use Kaberle but the one year lease on his services makes him a less attractive option for many teams.
Toronto fans have been fed a steady diet of crazy from their media (Dustin Brown, David Backes, David Krejci) in terms of possible return for one season of the puck moving defender. This probably means massive disappointment if/when the trade does come down, but for me the key element will be a top 6 forward coming back this weekend.
Why? The Leafs top 6 (I believe it to be Kris Versteeg, Nikolai Kulemin, Mikhail Grabovski, Tyler Bozak, Phil Kessel and Colby Armstrong) has some talent but isn’t much above expansion quality. Burke is under some pressure to make sure that 1st rd pick dealt to Boston for 2011 (another Kessel bullet) isn’t a lottery pick again, so acquiring an NHL veteran who can play with (say) Kessel and Kulemin is very important.
If he can’t do it this weekend, there are other options. Trading away more draft picks, maybe dealing Kadri (extremely unlikely) or Luke Schenn (possible) or maybe picking up a mid-level free agent like Lee Stempniak or Patrick O’Sullivan. Brian Burke isn’t stupid, I expect he’ll get his top 6 forward this weekend.
One final note: there have been some rumors out there on the Al Gore that Edmonton is involved in the trade talks. I don’t think it makes much sense, unless the team has a chance to sign Kaberle long term. Without a multi-year contract, trading any assets for a rental runs counter to logic and reason.