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Montreal Canadiens trade for what used to be Tomas Kaberle

"If you want to condemn a GM for signing a veteran defenceman to a long-term deal, how about Carolina's Jim Rutherford, who signed the wretched Tomas Kaberle to a three-year deal? Kaberle was nothing but excess baggage for the Bruins during their Stanley Cup run last spring, and he's been less than that for Carolina."

The passage above appeared in the Dec. 5 edition of the Montreal Gazette.

Four days later, Tomas Kaberle is a member of the Montreal Canadiens.

TSN's Darren Dreger reported that the struggling Habs have flipped defenseman Jaroslav Spacek for Kaberle, the former Toronto Maple Leafs mainstay who was a passenger on the Boston Bruins' Stanley Cup championship team last spring.

He signed a 3-year, $12.75 million deal with the Carolina Hurricanes in July. Three months into the season, it could safely be considered among the worst signings of the 2011 Free Agent Frenzy -- perhaps the worst.

Can he reestablish himself as one of the NHL's elite puck-moving defensemen — at least in the eyes of the Toronto media — with the Habs? Or is this just another line in Pierre Gauthier's eventual general managing obit?

Spacek will be reunited with Kirk Muller, whom he used on special teams while an assistant coach with Montreal.

Kaberle has nine assists in 29 games, just four of them on the power play, and was a minus-12. Last week on XM Home Ice, GM Jim Rutherford called him out on several fronts (via NESN):

"He hasn't played up to what we hoped he would have played," Rutherford said. "He came into camp and didn't prepare himself properly. He came in like the Boston Bruins did after winning the Stanley Cup and enjoyed his summer, and he hasn't caught up."

… "He may very well get lost in the shuffle in here. I don't know where it goes from there. I know there are some teams that are interested in him, and they aren't quite sure that they want to take on all the money and that becomes somewhat complicated. He got off to a slow start by his own doing and now he has to figure out a way to get out of it or he won't be playing with the Hurricanes long."

GM Jim Rutherford offered Kaberle and a second-round pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets but was denied. But he found a taker in the Canadiens.

Montreal's blueline is young and offensively challenged this season. Before getting two tallies from Frederic St-Denis and Rapheal Diaz last night, only three teams had gotten fewer goals from their defense corps than Montreal. With Andrei Markov's health about as stable as Lindsay Lohan at an LA bar without a monitoring bracelet, GM Pierre Gauthier felt the need to flip Spacek, a dependable defensive defenseman in the last year of his contract ($3.833 million cap hit) for a veteran puck-moving defenseman.

A puck-moving defenseman who used to be Tomas Kaberle.

This is a ridiculous trade for Montreal. It's based on what used to be, and what might be again, rather than what is. In his last 78 games with the Bruins and Hurricanes — including the playoffs — he has one goal. He has 12 assists on the power play (29 points overall) in that span.

That's what you get to juice the second-worst power play in the NHL (11.4 percent)?!

The best that could be said about Kaberle during the Bruins' Cup run was that he wasn't a liability. The best that could be said about Kaberle during his time in Raleigh was that he's been traded to Montreal.

Montreal is now collecting toxic contracts that some collect molds, spores and fungus. Kaberle is on the hook until 2014 at a $4.25 million cap hit. Markov is signed through 2014 at $5.75 million. Scott Gomez is signed through 2014 at $7.357 million.

If nothing else, we know two things about this trade for the Habs: That Kaberle stinks and that 2014 can't get here fast enough.

Hey, but at least Gauthier has a vote of confidence …

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