There is no question that the Canadiens struggling power play was at the heart of this deal. This is the third time in the last three years the Canadiens have made in-season deals to help the team’s production from the blueline, Mathieu Schneider, Marc Andre Bergeron and James Wisniewski were all brought in mostly to fill the void caused by the prolonged absences of Andrei Markov.
At one time Tomas Kaberle was a terrific offensive style defenseman who, like Markov, made his blue line partners look better than they were. Bryan McCabe can thank Kaberle for that five year-28 million dollar contract the Leafs gave him in 2006.
Kaberle played nearly twelve seasons with the Leafs before heading for Boston at least year’s trade deadline. He seemed lost with the Bruins but was still part of the team’s run to the Stanley Cup with eleven assists in 25 games.
At 33, he’s not the skater he once was but he can still has puck moving skills.
In the six full seasons since the lockout, only Niklas Lidstrom (302) has piled up more than Kaberle’s 262 assists. He has 84 goals and 454 assists for 538 points in his 931 game NHL career. In five of the last six years he’s recorded over 40 assists. The only year he didn’t reach that total his season was shortened by a broken hand. Whether he can still has the ability to return to those heights is the open question.
Obviously Canadiens scouting sees something in him that perhaps the rest of us don’t. In twenty-five games with the Hurricanes Kaberle had no goals and nine assists and was minus-12. Four of his nine assists have come in the last two games. Former assistant coach Perry Pearn has been doing pro scouting since he was relieved of his coaching duties in October. He was at the Bell Centre last night and probably contributed to the discussion about this deal.
By the way, Kaberle signed a three year contract with Carolina in July at a 4.25 million dollar annual cap hit.
From Carolina’s standpoint general manager Jim Rutherford said today
“Tomas is a player who has had a very good career but I should have known better in the sense of where he was in his career. He won the Stanley Cup, he had a short summer and at the start of training camp and the start of the season he was not where he needed to be (physically). He has not done as well as expected, just as the team has not done as well as expected. He has played better the last couple of weeks. But to have flexibility next year without his contract is important to us.”