Trade Targets: Tomas Kaberle (TOR)

"Trade Targets" will be a recurring piece on Fear The Fin until the March 3rd deadline, in which Plank and TCY will explore trade possibilities for the San Jose Sharks. Previous pieces of this nature can be found here.

As evidenced with the poll ran on Sunday, Fear The Fin readers have good feelings about the acquisition of Niclas Wallin.

However, there are some issues Plank and TCY have with the deal. Not only did Doug Wilson arguably overpay by doling out a second round draft selection, the move deprived the Sharks of an asset they could have used in another trade, as well as restricted the amount of cap space available for San Jose to use.

This is not a criticism of Wallin's abilities, but a criticism of organizational asset management. There should be a clear distinction between the two.

A potential left knee injury to Marc-Edouard Vlasic has sidelined the Sharks best shutdown defenseman for the last six games, resulting in Kent Huskins playing amongst the top four. Huskins is a serviceable bottom pairing defenseman when he's given sheltered minutes, but a foray into the twenty-plus range is not what the doctor ordered for a team who has relied on Evgeni Nabokov to keep them in games multiple occasions this season, and certainly not for a team with legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations.

Of course, this is a short term issue. It is likely Vlasic returns before the playoffs begin and Kent Huskins is eventually relegated to the third pairing. But even then, the Sharks blueline is still not at the level we would like it to be heading into April. So what does Wilson do to bring in another defender?

As it turns out, a noteworthy trade target played against San Jose last night.

Tomas Kaberle's name has floated around more than a Baby Ruth in a swimming pool, but we'll be damned if he is not an attractive option for the Sharks. Although Burke has said that he won't ask Kaberle to waive his no-trade clause, media members have begun to think that a Kaberle trade is becoming a possibility. Pierre Lebrun stated that Kaberle might be open to a trade to a contender such as San Jose or Chicago. James Mirtle, beat writer for the Maple Leafs at the Globe & Mail, thinks that the possibility of a Kaberle trade significantly increased when Phaneuf found his way to Toronto.

If the Maple Leafs continue this season without any other transactions, they will use approximately $25 MM of their cap space on defensemen. For a team that's trying to rebuild, it's tough to carry that much payroll on the defensive end.

Rebuilding takes picks as well. Toronto sent two first round draft picks ('10, '11) and a second ('10) to Boston this past off-season in exchange for Phil Kessel.

As we mentioned before, Burke has been against asking Kaberle to waive his NTC. However, Kaberle was almost involved in the Kessel deal, and his name has popped up in rumors for years; the Philadelphia Flyers nearly acquired his rights two years ago for Jeff Carter and a first round draft pick.

So how would Kaberle help? First off, when healthy, Kaberle is arguably one of the top ten offensive defensemen in the NHL. For a team whose second leading scorer on defense is Jason Demers (20 points), that's a definite plus. Kaberle has put up 45 points thus far on struggling Maple Leafs team, netting three power play goals and 20 power play assists in the process.

That's elite.

Another area where Kaberle would contribute would be in terms of ice time. Dan Boyle, although capable of playing big minutes, is playing over 26 minutes a game (6th in the league), and has suffered two minor injuries already. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who's out indefinitely with a knee injury, plays over 22 minutes. And then there's Rob Blake (all hookin', holdin', and trippin' 40 years of him), playing over 21 minutes. Each one of those players has been injured at some point this year. While you usually expect your top guys to play top minutes, that's not necessarily conducive to long term success. Believe us, if McLellan had another point option on the power play, Boyle wouldn't be seeing 26 minutes a game. That's not a preferred number for a guy who will be headed to Vancouver for the Winter Olympics later this month.

Kaberle plays 22 minutes per game in Toronto, and is their main point option on the power play. Although that number isn't Boylesque, it's impressive. Kaberle's addition would mean volumes for the Sharks in terms of ice time, on multiple levels. For starters, Boyle would be able to rest more often with another elite power play defenseman. Secondly, Blake wouldn't be needed for 21 minutes a game. That would help significantly.

Let's sum it up this way-- when Blake is playing top 4 minutes, he gives you bottom pairing production. If he plays bottom pairing minutes, he gives you top 4 production. It's a factor of his age, and while he's still a skilled player, he would be much more effective in a lesser role. Kaberle is also an insurance plan if (god forbid) Boyle goes down for a significant amount of time or if Vlasic's injury turns out to be more than "day-to-day".

The rub here is that he's not a great defensive defenseman by any means, and that's a definite problem for the San Jose Sharks. We've been a proponent of bringing in a hard-nosed guy who will excel in the defensive end with some offensive upside, not a guy who will excel in the offensive end with some defensive question marks.

As Plank put it one day, we need a motherfucker. Kaberle is akin to a guy who is likely living with his own mom and baking cakes, not tapping the one across the street and making bedboards break. He sees some of the easiest competition on the Maple Leafs roster, doesn't play on the kill (which, admittedly, won't be an issue in San Jose), and has a complete lack of physical presence. That's been an issue for the San Jose Sharks this season, and Kaberle keeps the status quo in this regard.

So what will it take to acquire him?

As we mentioned above, Toronto is in full rebuild mode. They're looking to get younger, which includes draft picks.

According to SBN counterpart Pension Plan Puppets, any deal would have to include a first round pick to begin with. Without that, the deal doesn't happen. Period.

Because of Kaberle's contract ($4.25 MM cap hit), Ryane Clowe would have to be involved in the deal. Now, unlike most trade proposals, we already know that Toronto has interest in Clowe-- they were an interested party when he was shopped during last year's NHL draft.

Toronto would also have to take one of Huskins or Mitchell to make the deal work. In a perfect world, Huskins is the odd man out of the picture, leaving the Sharks with seven defenseman (Leach as the healthy scracth) on the roster as opposed to eight (Huskins, Leach). Pension Plan Puppets agreed, stating that a package of Clowe, Huskins, and a first round pick may work if the Sharks were to land Kaberle.

This nets about $1 MM in salary cap room to work with, allowing Jamie McGinn a permanent spot on the roster to replace Ryane Clowe on the third line.

Long story short: Although the Sharks would be trading a young asset in Clowe (along with their first round pick for the third consecutive year), they would be getting an elite offensive defenseman in return, along with some of the additional intrinsic benefits of moving Clowe's salary and roster spot.

This all hinges on the second line's continued ability to score goals as currently constructed (Malhotra - Pavelski - Setoguchi). If that stops, Clowe could come in handy to rejuvenate the offense. However, Clowe's demotion to the third line makes him expendable, especially for a player like Kaberle. This deal would not only make the addition of Wallin much more attractive, it would give San Jose one of the best defensive units in the league when healthy.

(Note: We did inquire about Francois Beauchemin as well; however, Pension Plan Puppets assured us that he will probably not be traded considering he just signed a deal with Burke and the Leafs last offseason)

Heatley - Thornton - Marleau

Malhotra - Pavelski - Setoguchi

McGinn - Nichol - Ortmeyer

Shelley - Mitchell - Staubitz/McLaren

 

Boyle - Murray

Kaberle - Vlasic

Blake - Wallin

 

And the offer that gets it done is...

To Toronto: Ryane Clowe, Kent Huskins, 1st Round Pick

To San Jose: Tomas Kaberle, 5th Round Pick

*****

TCY's Take: Although the defensive faults in Kaberle's game are a concern, his offensive skill is undeniable. Clowe and a 1st is an overpayment, but it frees up salary cap space in the long run and nets an important piece for the Sharks Stanley Cup hopes in the short term. You can't get away with playing Murray on the point on the power play, and Kaberle helps in that regard. If the deal is out there I pull the trigger immediately.

Plank's Take: Oh Tomas Kaberle, you are the pretty girl at the party that everyone is fawning over, and rightfully so-- your puck movement is sweet, your shot serene. Problem is, what I really want is a bad girl, a nasty lady who is going to punch me in the face like Mia Cross and toss me around like Subject Zero. I pull the trigger on this deal only if an impact shutdown defenseman like Dan Hamhuis or Jan Hejda don't work out at half the cost. Your price is just too high for me not to look at cheaper, and more defensively sound, options first.

 

Go Sharks.

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