beauchemin_francois_0809headBarring a trade of Tomas Kaberle out of town, the Toronto Maple Leafs will enter the 2009-10 season with a top four of Kaberle, Mike Komisarek, Luke Schenn and Francois Beauchemin, who signed a three-year deal with the Leafs as an unrestricted free agent.

In other words, when you try to invade the Toronto zone, keep your head up. It’s no surprise that general manager Brian Burke wanted to get tougher and bigger this offseason. But the ease with which he has done that proves what a great GM he is. Up front, Burke has also added Colton Orr and Colin Stuart, plus kept one of his best skill players in Mikhail Grabovski. As the summer unfolds, expect Burke to also trade from his surplus of defensemen to bolster his front line.

In my mind, Toronto will now be the Boston Bruins’ biggest challenger in the Northeast Division. And that’s even before Swedish goaltender Jonas Gustavsson makes his decision of where to play in the NHL, a choice that includes the Leafs.

And for those dreaming that Beauchemin’s addition to the Leafs’ lineup might mean the Bruins and Leafs revisiting the Kaberle-for-Phil-Kessel deal discussed at the draft, well Burke yesterday predicted Kaberle would start the season with Toronto unless someone blows his doors off with an offer. You can believe the wisely conservative Bruins won’t be the ones to do that. But there are also other teams in the mix, including a reported offer from St. Louis.

Elsewhere around the division:

•The folks in Ottawa are already bracing for a rollercoaster ride after the Senators signed former Montreal Canadiens enigma Alex Kovalev.

•Buffalo might have its own giant defenseman in its lineup this season, as 6-foot-8 Tyler Myers is already impressing the Sabres during their development camp.

•Montreal legend Jean Béliveau isn’t surprised that the Habs have cut ties to Saku Koivu.