Monday, June 21, 2010

Kaberle and the Cat

Long serving Toronto Maple Leaf Tomas Kaberle's no-trade clause has an interesting wrinkle - it includes a short window each summer where the Leafs can trade him without his approval. This window opens on July 1 and runs to mid-August [or earlier/ later depending on the source]. It's very likely that Kaberle will be moved when his trade window opens, consider:

  • What little organizational depth the Leafs have is on the blue line;
  • In order to compete, the team needs to add quality forwards;
  • Kaberle's age profile doesn't quite fit with the Leafs (hoped for) window of opportunity; and
  • Kaberle seems to be the only asset of value on the roster that's even somewhat expendable.
I've been trying to think of an equivalent deal from the Leafs' past and I'm coming up short.

The Leafs have turned over their roster many times in the three decades that I've been following them but it's not often that such a long-serving player, drafted by the club, is so transparently put in position of waiting on a trade.

In terms of parallels, the only situation I can think of is Felix "the cat" Potvin.

Potvin and Kaberle's CVs cover some similar ground...

The Cat was drafted by the Blue and White and played eight seasons in Toronto after winning the starter's job over Hall of Fame goalie Grant Fuhr.

In his eight seasons as a Leaf, Potvin was a member of the NHL all-rookie team in 1993 and a finalist in the 1993 Calder voting. He made the NHL All Star team twice, led the NHL in goals-against in 1996-97 and had the best goals-against average in 1992-93. In his first full year as a Leaf, he backstopped the Leafs all the way to the Conference Finals.

Kaberle made the club as a surprise rookie and in his 10 seasons as a Leaf was a four time all-star. In his first full year as a Leaf, the team went all the way to the Conference Finals.

In 1998, the signing of UFA goalie Curtis Joseph created a log-jam in nets, making Felix expendable. After just five starts, Potvin left the Leafs in frustration and was AWOL for five weeks before being traded.

The signings of Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin, along with the emergence of Luke Schenn, created a log-jam on the Leafs' blue line, making one Leafs' D expendable. The odd man out appears to be Kaberle.

Potvin, it was claimed, was never the same after a cheap goal that came late in a game against the St. Louis Blues who were leading the league at the time. An Al MacInnis slap shot from out near centre ice beat Potvin over his glove, the Leafs lost the game and Potvin lost his mojo.

Kaberle, it has often been claimed, was never the same after a cheap hit by New Jersey Devil Cam Janssen.

In the end, Potvin went to the Islanders for former top draft pick Bryan Berard. The Islanders felt that Berard's offense would never make up for the defensive deficiencies in his game. The Leafs were looking to add more youth to their system and thought their coach, former defencemen Pat Quinn, was perfectly situated to help Berard develop into a top flight defenceman. Tragically, Berard's career was derailed by an errant high stick.

If, and when, Kaberle is moved in the next few weeks, in keeping with his similarities to Potvin, I wouldn't be surprised if the return to the Leafs is once again a flawed young prospect with lots of upside.

I do hope that a Kaberle trade has a happier ending than the Potvin deal for both the Leafs and whomever it is that they acquire.


  1. I remember that goal on Felix, by MacInnis. Potvin never was the same, and it was kind of sad the way his Toronto career ended. Those first two years with him in the crease were damn special.

    Still holding out hope that Kaberle re-ups with Toronto. I don't want to let go.

  2. Al MacInnis, good Cape Breton boy.

    "Flawed young prospect" that comes immediately to mind would be Patrice Cormier, though Atlanta picked him up and haven't really been rumored to be in the hunt. Nikita Filatov is another... Columbus has been linked to Kaberle... not sure how I'd feel about that though, big time character issues.

    BTW: Kaberle's NTC is lifted Friday, first day of the draft.