MONTREAL — The Bruins and Maple Leafs late last night discussed the possibility of a Phil Kessel-for-Tomas Kaberle swap, but according to a source familiar with the discussion between the teams’ respective general managers, the conversation did not include the Leafs sending the No. 7 overall pick in tonight’s NHL draft here to Boston.
”Not a chance that’s happening,” said the source in reference to the No. 7 pick. ”Wasn’t offered, and there isn’t a chance the Leafs do that deal.”
A tsn.ca report posted earlier today had it that the Bruins offered Kessel for Kaberle and the No. 7.
However, the Bruins again have put Kessel on the table–as they did at the league’s March 4 trade deadline–and he could become the basis of a swap for Kaberle, the 31-year-old Czech-born defenseman. Kessel is a restricted free agent and has not come to terms on a new deal with the Bruins. He can sign with any other NHL team, including the Leafs, on July 1, but the Bruins would have the right to match the deal, or collect compensation as mandated by the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Leafs GM Brian Burke is on record that he wants to move up in tonight’s draft, ideally to one of the top three picks. Kaberle, though valuable, isn’t the kind of chip that will allow Burke to make that move. Kaberle, in fact, becomes more valuable after Jay Bouwmeester, the premier defenseman available on July 1 as a free agent, finds a new home.
The Leafs are far more likely to receive better offers for Kaberle once Bouwmeester is tied up. In part, that could be why Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli called last night with his Kessel offer, in hopes of putting a deal in place for Kaberle prior to a potential rush for his services.
Kaberle is a legit first-pairing defenseman, who is on the books for $4.25 million the next two seasons. He is a left-handed shot, the same as Boston’s Zdeno Chara. The two could play together, but one of them would have to play the more unfamiliar right side. When Kaberle and Bryan McCabe (also a lefthanded shot) teamed up as the Leafs’ top pairing, McCabe switched to the right side.