Maple Leafs Watch: Kaberle next in Burke's housecleaning

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After the massive Sunday of trading that Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke just engaged in, I’m glad I wrote a “who the Leafs ought to deal” a few weeks ago and not this week.

Burke’s one-stop-swap-shop was back in business, if only for one day. And it processed two big transactions that brought former Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf and ex-Ducks goalie J-S Giguere to Toronto, and sent Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Ian White and Jamal Mayers to Calgary, and Jason Blake and Vesa Toskala to Anaheim.

If that felt like long-anticipated fun for joy-starved Toronto fans, it should have; they have been awaiting a world-class housecleaning from Burke since he arrived from the Ducks organization about a year ago – and clearly, he was pleased to finally deliver.

But more trades are coming. And at the risk of repeating a theme I’ve developed this year, I believe I know the player Burke will have to deal.

My guess: Tomas Kaberle, the elite blueliner – and last of the infamous “Muskoka Five” group of star Leafs – who has been the focus of trade rumors for the last couple years, will be the one on the swapping block.

Everybody knows Toronto is desperate to acquire talented forwards – and the only way that happens is if they trade some of the depth Burke’s latest moves have given the Leafs’ defense corps.

Safe to say he won’t be trading Phaneuf, or the two D-men (Francois Beauchemin and Mike Komisarek) he signed last summer. That leaves Kaberle and Kaberle alone as the most valuable trade bait Burke has in his arsenal.

Burke previously shot down rumors of a Kaberle deal by saying if he did send the quiet Czech to another team, he’d have to search for another player to replace Kaberle’s puck-moving skills.

In Phaneuf, he now has just such a replacement.

Kaberle can cling to his no-trade clause all he likes – or until summer, when Toronto will have a window in which the clause disappears thanks to missing the playoffs – but he must know the end of his Leafs career is at hand.

This column also appears in the Toronto Metro newspaper.

Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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