Friday, December 9, 2011

Habs Acquire Kaberle from 'Canes for Spacek

The Montreal Canadiens today announced the acquisition of defenseman Tomas Kaberle from the Carolina Hurricanes in return for defenseman Jaroslav Spacek.

Kaberle, 33, has struggled since leaving the Toronto Maple Leafs for the Boston Bruins at last year's trade deadline. He fell out of favour quickly in Carolina after signing there this summer as an unrestricted free agent. His contract pays him $4.25M per season for this year and the next two, whereas Spacek was set to become a UFA this summer.

I don't hate Tomas Kaberle. I had some belief this summer that he could bounce back after performing poorly in Boston. I had him as a possible James Wisniewski replacement in Montreal. But he has shown few signs of recovery, apart from the last couple of games with the 'Canes. The glass half-full approach would say that perhaps that's him turning a corner; there is definitely potential for the trade to pay off. And losing Spacek is not a real cost to pay. But if Kaberle doesn't find his game upon his return to Canada, this is a horrible contract to add to the Habs' salary cap. It isn't a problem for the current season, but will be a huge hindrance when negotiating new deals for Carey Price and P.K. Subban this summer.

Kaberle has just 9 points in 29 games for the 'Canes this year and is an atrocious -12. That's a far cry from his seasons of 42-58 points with the Leafs. Still, he should help the team's powerplay in the short term, and the move has potential to pay off if it's what is required to awaken the sleeping Czech. He is also a career 5-for-12 in shootouts, giving him a 41.7% efficacy, so he could help there as well.

Still, the move creates some questions for the Canadiens. To keep their RFAs this summer, is the team confident it can deal Scott Gomez elsewhere? Or what impact will a new collective bargaining agreement have on the team's big contracts? Where does Kaberle fit in a fully healthy line-up? Certain, Yannick Weber is the next to be shipped out, right? Why make this move when you're about to get Chris Campoli back? Wouldn't you want to see how he works out first? What does this say about Andrei Markov's future? On that last point, one of the ways this move "makes sense" is if Markov's career is in jeopardy. This becomes relevant as news today from Markov's Russian personal doctor indicated the rearguard is likely to need at least 7 weeks of recovery time, unexpected to play before the All-Star game in late January. Though if the two d-men find their game some day, a Markov - Kaberle powerplay duo has the potential to be very scary.

But most importantly: Perry Pearn took a job as a Pro Scout with the Canadiens. Was suggesting Tomas Kaberle to Pierrre Gauthier his big revenge for his firing?

The move from Carolina's perspective basically serves the sole purpose of dumping Kaberle's deal. To the point where GM Jim Rutherford actually said in his press conference when asked about Kaberle's 3-year $12.75M deal signed this summer, "I should have known better."

But for now, Habs fans, let's welcome Kaberle to the fold and give the guy a chance. He certainly couldn't make the team's powerplay any worse! And there is upside here. Just 10 months ago, he was traded to the Boston Bruins, fetching Joe Colbourne, a 1st round pick, and a conditional second! If he picks up his game, Gauthier may wheel and deal him elsewhere once Andrei Markov is healthy and make a net profit! Besides, no one can say for certain how is contract would impact the team moving forward, given that nobody knows what the new CBA will look like this summer. So let's ride it out, support him for now, and just see how it goes.

An aside: wondering how much impact Kirk Muller had on this deal's completion?

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