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Numbers Game: Canadiens deal Spacek for Kaberle

Scott Cullen
12/9/2011 1:24:20 PM
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Desperate to fix a punchless power play, the Montreal Canadiens made a trade, taking on a hefty contract in the hopes of recapturing past glory.

Numbers Game looks at the deal to bring Tomas Kaberle to La Belle Province.

Canadiens Get: D Tomas Kaberle.

Kaberle, 33, has seemingly fallen off a cliff since he was traded from Toronto to Boston last season, managing 18 points and a minus-6 rating in 53 games between Boston and Carolina.

While he had 11 points and a plus-8 rating in 25 playoff games, helping the Bruins win a Stanley Cup, Kaberle was largely an afterthought, playing under 16 minutes in 13 of 25 playoff games.

Even with that apparent decline, Kaberle secured a lucrative contract from Carolina that has two more years, at a cap hit of $4.25-million per season, remaining.

At his best in Toronto, Kaberle played 22-25 minutes per game (a career-high 28:10 in 2005-2006) and was a force on the power play, scoring at least 20 power play points in five of the last six seasons (scoring 19 PP points in 57 games in 2008-2009). This year, however, Kaberle is playing 19:15 per game, his lowest since his rookie year, and has four points on the power play.

Worse, Kaberle has been this ineffective despite being protected by facing the lowest quality of competition (per www.behindthenet.ca) among Carolina defencemen and starting a greater percentage of shifts in the offensive zone  than any Hurricanes regulars.

Moving to Montreal, Kaberle might at least be able to help the league's 29th-ranked power play, which has been clicking at only 11.4% this season and has obviously missed the presence of injured blueliner Andrei Markov.

If Kaberle can feed P.K. Subban for big blasts from the point, not unlike what Kaberle did in his heyday with Bryan McCabe in Toronto, there is a chance that Montreal's power play could at least pose more of a threat. It probably doesn't hurt matters that Kaberle would have some familiarity with Montreal's number one centre, Tomas Plekanec, from their time on Czech Republic national teams, but that's digging deep for positives.

Ultimately, Kaberle had better make a significant difference on the Montreal power play and not be a complete liability five-on-five for this deal to work, because there is significant money invested for two more seasons.

Hurricanes Get: D Jaroslav Spacek.

Spacek is a 37-year-old Czech blueliner who is just coming off the injured list due to an upper-body injury, but he's on the downside of his career too.

Spacek has three points and is plus-2 in a dozen games this season, but has played only 15:29 per game and, not unlike Kaberle, had a lot of against relatively low-calibre opposition.

While it would be nice for the Hurricanes if Spacek plays well -- he could even be moved to a contender at the deadline -- it really doesn't matter. Carolina isn't a playoff team and Spacek's contract, which costs $3,833,333 against the salary cap (www.capgeek.com), expires at the end of the season, so the real value in this deal for the Hurricanes is that they get out from under their financial commitment to Kaberle. Anything more than that is a bonus.

With Kaberle gone and Joni Pitkanen injured, there will be more quality ice time available to young Carolina blueliners.

When one considers that Pitkanen, Jay Harrison, Tim Gleason, Bryan Allen, Derek Joslin and Spacek are the other defencemen on the roster, there are now prime opportunities for young defencemen Jamie McBain and Justin Faulk to play more significant roles for the Hurricanes.

McBain played nearly 26 minutes per game when he was a late-season call-up in 2009-2010, but his ice time has been inconsistent since. With six points in his last five games, McBain appears the most likely candidate to take over a consistent offensive role on the Carolina defence.

Rookie Justin Faulk has three assists and a minus-9 rating in 14 games with Carolina, but has played over 19 minutes in 13 of those 14 games and is seeing more time with the man advantage.

Both McBain and Faulk have promise and now have two-thirds of a season to grow and establish that they are capable of handling a top-four role in the NHL.

For a rebuilding team like Carolina, they had little use for Kaberle, especially if he wasn't able to perform any better than he did through the first third of the season. Montreal had better hope that form can be reversed, or else they will regret this trade not just in the present, but for the next two years as well.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.



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