Kaberle/By S. Bradley

Making heads or tails of what Tomas Kaberle is worth out on the open market right now requires some sort of ancient code-breaking talisman that Nicolas Cage would try to secure in one of his popcorn movies.

But one thing that’s definitely clear is that if Kaberle wants to play somewhere with a chance to win, the Bruins are probably his best option regardless of how much of a pay cut from the $4.25 million he was making they want him to take.

First, let’s look at what some of the other unrestricted defensemen have gotten on the open market, with their new team, opening-night age, games played, points from last season, term and salary:

Ian White, Detroit, 27, 78 GP, 26 pts., 2 years, $5.75
James Wisniewski, Columbus, 27, 75 GP, 51 pts., 6 years, $33 million
Christian Ehrhoff, Buffalo, 29, 79 GP, 50 pts., 10 years, $40 million
Ed Jovanovski, Florida, 35, 50 GP, 14 pts., 4 years, $16.5 million
Kevin Bieksa, Vancouver, 30, 66 GP, 22 pts., 5 years, $23 million
Andrei Markov, Montreal, 32, 7 GP, 3 pts., 3 years, $17.25 million

I included Bieksa, Ehrhoff and Markov even though they signed with their respective teams prior to July 1 because those guys were really paid as though they had already hit the open market.

So where does the 33-year-0ld Kaberle, who produced 47 points in 82 games for the Bruins and Toronto last season, fit in? Well you have to take Ehrhoff’s front-loaded deal out of the equation. Kaberle’s younger and more productive than Jovanovski, but Florida is paying him for his shutdown ability and physicality. Kaberle’s more durable than Markov. In a vacuum, Kaberle might be able to land a three- or four-year deal worth around what he made last season. However, the NHL is not a vacuum and most contending teams have allotted their cap space. Kaberle’s pedestrian postseason performance, and maybe even his unwillingness to OK a trade to anywhere but Boston the last couple years, has obviously scared away would-be buyers.

There are a few teams still looking to hit the salary-cap floor, that could fit in Kaberle, but those teams probably aren’t near the top of Kaberle’s list of places to live.

Among available defenseman, Kaberle is probably in the top three along with Bryan McCabe and Scott Hannan, who’s a defensive D-man that gets graded out a totally different way.

With leverage in their favor, the Bruins aren’t likely to go more than a one- or two-year deal for around $3 million at this point. They also offer the only championship-caliber team that would definitely be interested in bringing him in.

Here’s a thumbnail look at the teams — according to my detective work and use of CapGeek.com — that may be potential landing spots for Kaberle, other than the Bruins.

The only other contending team that could use Kaberle, the Habs have some cap room and six guys on defense already signed. Kaberle’s skill set, though, might duplicate what the Habs already have.

The Flames have just five defensemen signed and $6 million of cap space left. Kaberle’s always been an East Coast guy, so he probably wouldn’t want to become a Flame.

Kaberle’s brother enjoyed his best career success with the Hurricanes. But Carolina is on a budget — once it gets to the cap floor. Once the Hurricanes get RFAs Brandon Sutter and Derek Joslin signed, they’ll still need to spend some more. But they’ll have seven D under contract, including four making more than $2 million.

The Wild need a puck-moving replacement for the traded Brent Burns. Right now they have six D and 10 forwards signed, with three millionaires on defense. They don’t have to spend too much more to get to the floor, so Kaberle would probably be too rich for their blood.

NY Islanders
The place where veterans go to make some money and play in anonymity, Long Island, of course, needs to spend a ton of cash to get to the cap floor, unless they use a bunch of bonuses that will never be reached to cheat their way into compliance. The Islanders have six D under contract, but a puck-mover like Kaberle would go a long way toward adding some punch to the New York back end as a complement to the returning Mark Streit.

It’s been a great free-agent season for a number of average to slightly-above-average talents. Kaberle missed the initial boat. Putting down anchor in Boston and just being glad he’s getting paid seven figures to play at the game’s highest level in a hockey town might be his only chance of not getting left at the dock and avoiding floating on a sinking ship of a team.