The biggest signing the Canes made this off-season was picking up veteran puck-mover Tomas Kaberle for three-years with a cap hit of $4.25 mil per season, which was the same as it was on his previous contract. Almost immediately after Kaberle was signed, Joe Corvo was traded to the Boston Bruins for a fourth round pick, leading many people to assume that Kaberle would be replacing Corvo as the team’s powerplay specialist. However, in a post on my other blog, I noted some big differences between Kaberle and Corvo’s game and the latter had a lot more responsibility on the Canes than Kaberle did on the Bruins and Maple Leafs. Yes, Kaberle plays more minutes but Corvo took on tougher competition and killed penalties, which Kaberle did not to do a lot of. Kaberle’s biggest responsibility was quarterbacking the powerplay and that fills a need in Carolina but just how big of a workload should the Canes give Kaberle?
The biggest help that Kaberle can provide for Carolina is helping spark this powerplay which, despite what some think, was pretty bad last season, especially when it came to getting shots on net. This is where Kaberle would step into Corvo’s role as the powerplay quarterback and hopefully provide more production from there. If you take a look at the article I linked, it’s possible that the Canes might get more out of Kaberle than they did from Corvo on the powerplay, but calling him a “replacement” for Corvo is a bit of a stretch.
The biggest difference between Kaberle and Corvo’s game is that Corvo had a huge role in Carolina as a top-4 defenseman who contributed a lot at both ends. Kaberle doesn’t kill penalties often and has barely done it in the past two seasons and he faced weak competition the past couple of seasons. Corvo saw the second toughest competition among Carolina defensemen. Kaberle also failed to score a goal on the PP last year but he had 25 PP points (which made up over half of his 47 point total) which was higher than Corvo’s 23 PP points last season (although 8 of his were from goals). Also, when you compare Kaberle’s production on the powerplay in terms of shots with Pitkanen and Corvo over the last four seasons, Kaberle leads the pack by a longshot. Even his most recent season looks like an improvement over those two so I have to believe that Kaberle should help out the Canes powerplay a bit.
Now the question is what role does he play in Carolina and how much ice-time should he see per game? When I tracked scoring chances for the Stanley Cup Final, Kaberle was getting third pair minutes with Adam McQuaid and was mainly utilized on the powerplay. He thrived in this role ending the series with a very good scoring chance ratio and did very well on the powerplay. His ice-time and 63.7% offensive zone start percentage also shows that he was given relatively soft assignments. I feel that it’s unlikely the Canes use him in this way because Boston has a stronger defense corps than Carolina but if players like Johnny Boychuk and Andrew Ference were getting more minutes and tougher assignments than him, then what makes you think that Pitkanen, Allen, Gleason and possibly McBain won’t do the same? However, putting him a third pairing role would mean that we’re paying $4.25 mil a year for someone to only be a PP specialist, which doesn’t look good on the front office’s part. My thought is that the Canes can use him as Toronto did where he got mostly offensive assignments but still was given a lot of ice-time and the tougher assignments that Corvo left behind can go to Allen.
I’ve always liked Kaberle but I felt that he was kind of overhyped in Toronto with the Leafs believing that they could get a massive haul in return for him in a trade. He isn’t as good as some people make him out to be, but the fact is that Kaberle can prove to be a big help to this team if he plays to his full potential (if he plays like his 2006-08 self then I will be very happy). It’s all about reasonable expectations, though and if people are expecting him to be Shea Weber then they will likely be disappointed but hoping that Kaberle can help Carolina’s powerplay find some sense of life is not out of the question at all.