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BOSTON -- The smoke is bellowing.
But is there fire?
Speculation was running rampant Tuesday afternoon that the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs were close to completing a deal that would send Leafs defenseman Tomas Kaberle to the Bruins.
Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke confirmed during a radio interview on 98.5 The Sports Hub that he was in talks with Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli on a possible deal, but did not mention a specific player or players.
Multiple league sources told ESPNBoston.com that there was no deal in place as of late Tuesday night.
After the Maple Leafs defeated the Bruins 4-3 at TD Garden, Kaberle was asked if Boston would be a good place to play. He gave the Bruins his endorsement.
|While speculation that Tomas Kaberle would be headed to Boston ran wild, the Maple Leafs defenseman (15) celebrated a win over Boston on Tuesday.|
"I would think so," Kaberle said. "Obviously, they've got a pretty good team, good goaltenders and I've played a lot of games against them and they're always tough to beat. We'll see what's going to happen."
Kaberle, who has a no-trade clause, denied that he's given Burke a list of teams to whom he would accept a deal. Kaberle admitted the Bruins were on the list last season.
"There's no list this year," he said.
"Like I said, if I talk to Brian, there's always things to do that could be done," Kaberle added. "We don't want to distract the team or anything like that. If I'm no [longer] needed on this team, then we can talk about it. Obviously, we've got 12 days or whatever to go. Right now there's nothing to talk about."
Everyone involved in a possible deal has been given a gag order, according to one of the sources.
Chiarelli has made it no secret he's looking for a blueliner.
"A solid defenseman that can log some minutes, and there are some out there like that, solid two-way defensemen," Chiarelli said late Tuesday night after announcing he had acquired center Chris Kelly from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Boston's second-round pick in the 2011 draft. "There are other types of defensemen, also. It's hard to find a match, as far as a team that is willing to maybe trade for the future [draft picks], so there are different routes to get that defenseman. There are some decent options."
Asked Tuesday afternoon on 98.5 The Sports Hub if he was engaged in trade talks with the Bruins, Burke said, "Yes."
"There is no barrier to that," Burke said about dealing with the Bruins, dispelling any rumors that the embattled Leafs general manager wouldn't deal with Chiarelli after the Phil Kessel trade in September 2009 that netted Boston Tyler Seguin (via Toronto's first-round pick in 2010), Jared Knight (Toronto's second-round pick in 2010) and the Leafs' first-round pick in 2011. "There are no hard feelings, there's no sense of, 'Oh, we have to even the score somehow.' If we can make a deal with the Bruins that makes sense for both teams, we're going to do it."
Bruins president Cam Neely went on the station later Tuesday and acknowledged that the Bruins were "close" to completing a trade but he would not give specifics.
Kaberle, 32, is aware of the many rumors involving him, and said the Bruins aren't the only team involved.
"I've heard more than just the one team," he said. "At the same time, it's nice to hear that there's some interest. Obviously, I would like to stick around Toronto, but you never know what's going to happen. Right now there's nothing to talk about, really. If something happens, my agent is going to call me and we'll go from there."
The NHL trade deadline is Feb. 28.
"Obviously every time there's a deadline, there's a lot of speculation," Kaberle said. "Players stay out of it and focus on the game. We've got back-to-back games and we've got Buffalo [Wednesday] night."
The Maple Leafs are currently fourth in the Northeast Division and trail the Bruins by 13 points.
"It's always nice when you get a chance to play in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and obviously I haven't played in it in five years," he said. "Right now it's tough on me and my teammates. We don't want to have a distraction at all, especially when you're chasing from behind and trying to get into the playoffs."
Kaberle is used to hearing and reading all the rumors that surround him once the trade deadline looms. Amidst the buzz yesterday afternoon, he was taking his pregame nap at the team hotel and said he was unaware of the speculation.
"Obviously, I don't know what's going on," he said. "You guys probably know better. I was just getting ready for the game and I'm happy to get two points at the end of the night."
The question as of late Tuesday night was whether a deal would get done or fizzle out like they have in the past.
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins and Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com. James Murphy of ESPNBoston.com contributed information to this report.