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Could Tomas Kaberle actually return to the Boston Bruins next season?

Jun 18, 2011, 11:21 AM EDT

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Tomas Kaberle AP

On paper, Tomas Kaberle‘s overall 2011 playoff numbers don’t look too awful:

Games Played: 25; zero goals and 11 assists for 11 points; +8 with 4 penalty minutes.

Yet those statistics don’t really capture how disappointing Kaberle often was for the Boston Bruins. He was traded from the Toronto Maple Leafs – and rumored to be the target of offers for what seemed like ages – for a simple reason: he was supposed to improve a flat Bruins’ power play. Instead he only managed to produce three power-play assists in 24 regular season games and five power-play assists in 25 playoff games with Boston. (He hasn’t scored a power-play goal for the Bruins yet.) While Pension Plan Puppets points out that Kaberle might not be the power play stud people expected, those are still numbers that disappointed many who hoped that the Czech-born blueliner could make the impotent Bruins man advantage more effective.

That unit didn’t do much until the Stanley Cup finals (finishing with 10 power-play goals in the playoffs overall), but Kaberle’s struggles weren’t isolated to scoring issues. He also was forced into plenty of troubling turnovers, perhaps partially because he simply wasn’t very familiar with his teammates.

Our instinct was to say that he’s a goner in Boston, but there might be a sentiment brewing within the organization to bring him back. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli had some very positive things to say about Kaberle in the Boston Herald.

“You know what he brings, and you saw it more against Vancouver. He brings the ability to both slow down the play and speed it up with his passing and skating,” said Chiarelli. “And he freezes guys. He freezes guys for the opposing forecheck, he freezes them in the neutral zone. He makes great passes, he skates into the trap. I think he was our top defensive scorer. He was a real important component here and I know he was criticized for a time.

“But you know I’ll continue to defend him because he’s a good person and he brought a lot to the back end.”

(snip)

Kaberle’s agent, Rick Curran, said yesterday that he has only had a chance to extend a perfunctory hello and congratulations to Chiarelli and that the two will have a more meaningful conversation soon, most likely prior to next week’s draft in Minnesota.

Curran said Kaberle was initially stung by the level of “venom” in the criticism he received early in the playoffs but he got past that, and Curran pointed to the defenseman’s improved play. He felt it was a matter of Kaberle adjusting to the system and the coaching staff adjusting to the player’s talents.

Being part of the Stanley Cup-winning formula (even in a reduced role, often playing on the team’s third defensive pairing) won’t hurt Kaberle’s resume even if his perceived weak output would. Ultimately, it will probably come down to price. If he’s willing to take a substantial pay cut from his previous $4.25 million salary cap hit, the Bruins might give him the benefit of the doubt that a training camp to familiarize himself with Claude Julien’s system might make him more of an impact player.

Besides, the market for unrestricted free agent defenseman is notably weak, so they might be wise to give it a try for one more year anyway.

(For another take on the Bruins’ future roster, check out what Joe Haggerty had to say.)

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