General manager says “player” does not need to be dealt. He says “There’s no zeal to move the player…”, nor a desire to do so. Player says he wants to stay, he loves this city, he’s prepared to be traded but it is not his desire to be dealt. It’s a familiar story line for hockey teams everywhere; for Tomas Kaberle this back-and-forth banter is a recurring feature that has silently taken a toll and finally forced the hand of he and his agent Rick Curran.
Speaking with Yahoo! Sports on Wednesday, Curran relayed the feelings of his client on the ongoing saga that is his limited no-trade clause with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Kaberle, who has been his conservative self over the course of this on-again off-again near three year ordeal, finally intimated some emotion with the aide of his outspoken agent;
“The only thing that Tomas gets upset about is this,” Curran said. “For anyone who knows him, he’s a very quiet, laid-back, conservative young man. He has made it very clear what his intentions are. He wants to stay in Toronto. He recognizes that he’s a chattel, that he can be moved. If that’s the case, then move him.
“What he does not appreciate, what he does not enjoy, is being front-page topic of conversation every time Brian decides that he’s got to churn the waters a little bit in order to create a little interest.
In a way, Kaberle’s pseudo-comments are a breath of fresh air. For all of Brian Burke’s pussy-footing around the situation – his loyalty to the NTC, vague references to the “player”, and subtle shots at Kaberle’s perceived unwillingness to move – it’s hard to not feel some level of sympathy for Kaberle, who has been “thrown under the bus” for lack of a better phrase. For better or for worse, Toronto is a hockey town. It’s a hockey town that has seen quite a bit of its media ubiquity built on the back of “Big Blue”. That’s not going to change, and when Brian Burke intimates that a Kaberle trade (or lack thereof) is not a story – he is in essence making it one.
Say what you will about Kaberle’s defensive prowess; he remains an elite offensive defenseman, or ‘puck-moving’ defender if you will. Whether he’s willing to move, or his general manager is willing to move him is almost irrelevant. The re-appearing shrinking window in his contract that allows him to be dealt is ultimately responsible for any degree of interest another NHL club may have in acquiring his talents. On one hand, I can only agree with Rick Curran that Burke’s calculated posturing may not have been the most amiable method of drumming up interest. On the other hand, I agree with Burke that there is some “obligation” to explore the potential. Curran himself agrees that it is Burke’s right to do so, but has a different view on his methods;
“That’s fine. Pick up the phone and call your general manager colleagues. Talk to them about it. But don’t make him front-page news. He didn’t ask for it. He realizes that it’s part of it, of being a Toronto Maple Leaf, but don’t ask him to sit back and enjoy it.”
Some feel that Curran’s comments were “unwarranted”. I can’t say they were unwarranted, maybe off the mark a little, though. Who is the object of camp Kaberle’s frustration here? They say it’s Burke and his media massaging techniques, but it’s as though Curran’s remarks are insinuating a larger focus of that frustration being on the media and their handling of the situation. For a team that’s enjoyed little in the way of success in the post-lockout era, Burke’s played the role of upstanding general manager when it comes to handling the media. Yeah, I’ll be the first to say that Toronto sports media has given him an easy ride – for whatever reason – but that’s not to say Burke hasn’t handled controversy well. Save for his stubborn defense of the Kessel trade, Brian Burke has faced the questions when it was his turn.
Curran didn’t help his client’s trade value by stating that any team that acquires Kaberle will be doing so under the pretense that he’s a rental player;
“I would think that the club that’s going to acquire Tomas, to give up that asset value, would want to be assured that they’re getting more than a one-year hockey player,” Curran said. “As required, he will definitely report to whomever it is that trades for his playing rights as long as they understand they have a one-year hockey player. So whatever it is they’re about to give up in asset value, they better gauge it accordingly.”
You think that didn’t fire-up Brian Burke’s blood pressure? The end of this mess is in sight – Sunday August 15th is just three days away – and whatever the outcome, it will not be pretty. I guess we do have one certainty at this point, it’s abundantly clear that Tomas Kaberle would like for you to leave him alone.
The Kaberle debacle, I think it’s safe to call it one now, is a symptom of a larger problem. His availability is a story because there’s little else to focus on for a team that’s in the throes of rebuilding. Tomas Kaberle is worth more to the Leafs as a trade chip right now than he is as a member of the 2010-11 roster. A harsh truth for some of the faithful, but until he’s wearing another jersey he will continue to draw the ire of some fans and media whether or not he’s living under the safety net of his well crafted contract. Move him Burke, while you still can…