This one's going to lead to a festival of speculation for the readers of entrails and tea-leaves.
That the Montreal Canadiens would part ways with defenceman Jaroslav Spacek - a popular and funny, if oft-injured member of their team - is one thing, but to acquire Tomas Kaberle in return?
Bring in a guy who was summarily dumped from the Cup champion Boston Bruins in the summer, then signed a rich three-year deal in Carolina where he was deemed surplus to requirements after less than 30 games?
Andrei Markov's knee must be worse than anyone feared, right?
Maybe, but maybe not.
Here's counter-argument on Kaberle: he remains a mobile, offensive-minded guy who has shown in the past he can run a power-play effectively, he demonstrably loves to play in the Bell Centre (and against the Habs in general, 15 goals and 50 points in 67 career games).
And more than anything, the Habs need a power-play quarterback. Right now. They are in a 2-for-29 rut on the power play, and the fact they posted yet another o-fer against Vancouver on Thursday was one of the reasons they weren't able to close out the Canucks after building a 3-0 lead.
Sure, Shea Weber would be far better to have, hell, there are probably 20 guys who are better. But they're not available in exchange for a soon-to-be UFA who is on a 35+ contract that pays him a little less than $400,000 of what Kaberle will be making this year.
Simply put, the price is right for Kaberle, who, when Markov returns (and he will), can become a very useful piece on the second power-play unit.
No, he's not great defensively (minus-12 this year) and has a reputation for being soft, but Spacek wasn't exactly a beast in his own end - it says here the bet that Montreal is making is that Kaberle can become the player he was for the Toronto Maple Leafs if he is used in the right way.
The hope, then, is he becomes this year's equivalent to the Mathieu Schneider, Marc-Andre Bergeron or James Wisniewski acquisitions of the recent past: an offence-first player who may be defensively suspect but is nevertheless helpful when deployed in the right role.
There are those who will say that taking on a declining 33-year-old whose offensive production is sagging noticeably (nine points in 29 games this year) is inexcusable given he is under contract for two more years.
But that's not an argument that holds a lot of water. The Canadiens are stacked with young, inexpensive blue-liners, and while Carey Price and P.K. Subban are going to be restricted free agents next summer, there's plenty of room to sign them to hefty deals and still eat Scott Gomez's bigger-by-the-minute $7.3-million hit.
That's because players like Raphael Diaz and Alexei Emelin are comparative bargains at under $1 million, and young blue-liners like Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi are waiting in the wings for the day they get too expensive (up front, entry-level contract players like Louis Leblanc and Brendan Gallagher will be pushing for spots on the third line and will command considerably less than impending free agents Travis Moen and Andrei Kostitsyn.) The only defencemen signed through next year are Markov and Yannick Weber (who makes less than $850,000), and the money spent on UFAs-to-be Campoli and Hal Gill should be more than enough to lock up Josh Gorges, also a pending UFA, long term.
And so Montreal fans will now bid adieu to one injury-prone Czech and say hello to another who has played 82 games in three of the last four seasons.
If you think of it as a like-for-like transaction, it might just be crazy enough to work.