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What The Ledba Signing Could Mean

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
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The other shoe you just heard dropping is named Brett Lebda.

The Leafs signed the 28-year-old Illinois native Wednesday to a two-year contract and if his name doesn’t garner much attention, the mathematics around his acquisition should.

Lebda, signed as a free agent coming out of the lockout by Detroit,  has played 326 regular season games and 62 post season games for the Wings.

Sixty-two games. That’s more than any other Leaf save for one player, Tomas Kaberle, who has appeared in 77.

Lebda will strike some as a poor man’s Ian White. He is listed at five-foot-nine and 195 pounds. Observers say he doesn’t have White’s all around game but then, as the man on the tail end of the depth chart, he doesn’t have to.

What Lebda does have in droves is speed although observers in Detroit said his game tailed off after the Olympic break and he struggled to maintain his ice-time after Andreas Lilja returned from a concussion. Still a mentorship from Chris Chelios and a nightly tutorial delivered by Nicklas Lidstrom couldn’t hurt.

With Dion Phaneuf, Mike Komisarek, Francois Beauchemin, Luke Schenn, Kaberle, Carl Gunnarsson and Jeff Finger already in the fold, Lebda’s acquisition swells the number of NHL defenceman to eight and that’s with towering Keith Aulie, the Leafs most NHL-ready rearguard, yet to be heard from.

That’s an awful lot of defencemen.

Of course it is a matter of record that GM Brian Burke is entertaining offers for Tomas Kaberle. His position has been clear enough. Having added Colby Armstrong and Kris Versteeg, he wants a top six forward.

But Kaberle is not his most attractive piece. At 32, with one year left on a modest contract, the proficient Kaberle will likely require an extension.

Sophomore Luke Schenn, meanwhile, is only 20 and despite some struggles last year he could emerge as a shutdown defenceman for a generation.

Burke is a notoriously quick worker when it comes to assembling a team but he has in Kaberle a productive defenceman who wants to re-sign with the Maple Leafs. Lebda’s signing helps augment a blueline corps that is large but a little light on finish.

Schenn had five goals last year but he is no Kaberle.

So will the GM shock the world and trade the 15 years Schenn has in front of him for a young power forward (none more frequently mentioned than Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan) and extend Kaberle?

The idea, remember, is to gain as much ground as possible to push the Leafs into the post season for the first time in six years.

If trading Kaberle, Schenn or even the pair of them will provide the best chance, don’t think Burke won’t do it.
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