One of the most talked about trades in hockey has happened.
The Toronto Maple Leafs' Tomas Kaberle, rumored to be available in a trade since before the 2009 Entry Draft, finally has a new home. The defenseman has waived his no-trade clause for a deal to the Boston Bruins, with the Leafs receiving touted prospect Joe Colborne, Boston's first-round pick in the 2011 Draft and a conditional pick.
The pick reportedly depends on whether Kaberle re-signs with the Bruins or if Boston makes it to the Stanley Cup Final. Kaberle is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Kaberle has 3 goals and 38 points for the Maple Leafs this season, and he's scored at least 49 points in four of the last five seasons.
The Bruins have been looking to add an offensive-minded defenseman to their corps of solid defenders, and Kaberle was the best player available. Boston's power play, currently 14th in the League, should receive a boost from the deal. The Bruins also have only on blueliner with more than 25 points -- Zdeno Chara with 31.
This is a huge return for Toronto, and one of the top bounties for a "rental" player in recent League history. Colborne was the 16th pick of the 2008 Entry Draft. He spent two seasons at the University of Denver and was one of the top pro prospects in the NCAA while there. Listed at 6-foot-5 and 190 pounds, Colborne has the tools to become a No. 1 NHL center someday, but he's got some filling out to do. He has 12 goals and 26 points in 55 games for AHL Providence in his first full professional season.
The first-round pick is not the one Toronto traded to Boston in the Phil Kessel deal, but it is the first No. 1 pick to be traded for a pending unrestricted free agent this close to the trade deadline since the 2007-08 season.
Adding Kaberle, along with veteran center Chris Kelly, pushes the Bruins into the top group of contenders to win the Stanley Cup. Philadelphia, Vancouver and Detroit are the big three at this point, but Boston might be positioned to make it a quartet for that discussion now. The Bruins always have been stingy when it comes to goal prevention with goalie Tim Thomas and the Chara-led defense corps, but Kaberle gives the group an element it didn't previously possess.
This move also could force the issue for other potential contenders in the East like Tampa Bay, Washington and Pittsburgh.
The Maple Leafs have pulled to within six points of eighth place in the conference, but general manager Brian Burke said yesterday on NHL Live! that just making the playoffs as the No. 8 seed doesn't really interest him.
Burke has had a productive last two weeks. In three separate trades, he's sent out Kaberle and fellow defenseman Francois Beauchemin and forward Kris Versteeg, and picked up a pair of first-round picks, two legitimate top prospects in Colborne and defenseman Jake Gardiner, plus top-six forward Joffrey Lupul.
I remember the first time at Wrigley Field all of us had the long johns, the turtlenecks and the extra equipment because we were afraid of being cold. Halfway through the first period everybody's ripping everything off and we just ended up wearing what we would normally wear for a game at the United Center.
— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp on the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic