There have been realistic conversations taking place that Jaroslav Spacek might not find a place on the Canadiens blueline if he ever were to return form injury. Well now it's confirmed, he won't.
He's been traded for Tomas Kaberle.
Make no mistake about it, this is a big deal.
Kaberle is perhaps not what Kaberle was 3 or 4 years ago, but he is a different player to Spacek for whom he was just traded. For years a stalwart of the Toronto PP, he often led that team to have a good one. And this is not distant past either. Last season, Kaberle had 25 assists on the PP.
He is faulted both for his lack of production this season (9 points) and his apparent lack of return on value for the Bruins, but let's not forget he won the Cup with that team. Whatever he did, he didn't hurt the effort too much -- a moderately above average team still won the Cup with this guy.
The key to watching Kaberle will be tempering expectations. he does not shoot, almost cannot shoot. But he is slippery in possession none the less. What's more, he can turn quick plays and move the focus of attack from the point (and keep the darn puck in at the line), all things the Canadiens have been crying out for since they have begun this season without the triumvirate of Markov, Hamrlik and Wisniewski.
Obviously the downside is his salary (or so it was for the Hurricanes).
But that has to be accepted as a way to acquire players that can actually make an impact at this level mid-season. For all the groaning, Kaberle is only signed to make just over $4 million (NHL average salary is now pushing $3 million, remember) and will only cost the Habs a few hundred thousand more than Spacek this season.
If the other downside is that he is untradeable, that seems to have been proven untrue by recent events (namely two trades in 10 months).
I suggest everyone takes the optimistic view on this. Kaberle probably won't save the team, but acquiring a 33-year-old veteran who scored 47 points when he was 32 from defence is not a bad thing. Hope that his limitations will be covered by those defencemen who will now be freed from having to man the PP as ineptly as they have been.
And though it's tempting to view this as Markov's replacement, as that's been a recent fixation, remember it was for Spacek he was traded and not Markov. If Markov returns, Kaberle will be filling those skates, not Andrei's.
I did not feel a real impending need for a move at this time, but if there was any emotion it was the dread that pressure from others less patient would lead to a vast overpayment for the purposes of placation. This doesn't feel that way at all. In fact, pleasant surprise is the way it feels.
I don't want anyone to mistake my gushing language as an indictment of Spacek. I always felt he was a good addition given the options available and that for the most part he made the defensive corps better. He was a big reason for the playoff push of 2010, and should be remembered fondly for giving us that.
I'm sure he'll be just fine in Carolina until his contract expires. After that, we wish him the best of luck in finding employment with a new team somewhere.