After coveting the offensive defenseman for years, the Bruins finally landed him with a blockbuster deal at the trade deadline last February. But Kaberle never lived up to expectations, failing to inject any life in Boston's anemic power play and struggling frequently in his own zone.
Still, the Bruins won their first Stanley Cup in 39 years with Kaberle playing in all 25 of the club's playoff games, and Kaberle has nothing but fond memories of his brief stint in Boston, which came to an end in July when he signed as a free agent with Carolina.
"Obviously, you win the Stanley Cup, it's tough to leave," Kaberle said. "But it's a business and that's the way it goes in the NHL.
"It is weird always," Kaberle added of playing against his ex-teammates. "It was only five or six months with them, but I had only good memories here."
Kaberle was back in Boston on Tuesday for the first time since the duck boat parade. He received his championship ring from Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli in the morning, got some friendly chirps from Zdeno Chara during the morning skate and will take the ice against his old club Tuesday night.
"It's really nice," Kabere said of the ring. "Whoever did it [Jostens], they did a nice job. I'm sure everybody liked it. It's nice. It was a long season, but it was well worth it. It's a new season now. Just have to look at it that way and the boys are going to be enemies tonight."
Kaberle was Public Enemy No. 1 at times during his stay in Boston for his well-chronicled struggles, but took the criticism in stride and remained an upbeat presence and popular teammate in the Bruins' locker room.
"That comes with the territory and comes with the job," Kaberle said. "There's always pressure and if you're not performing like you're supposed to, you're going to hear it. That's fine with me."
Kaberle and his agent had talks with the Bruins about remaining in Boston, but the three-year, $12.75 million offer he received from the Hurricanes and his brother Frantisek's recommendation were too much to pass up.
"We were talking [with the Bruins]," Kaberle said. "At the end of the day, Carolina was the most interested in me and I felt like it was a good decision. My brother helped me as well. He played here before and he only said good things about the Carolina organization and teammates, so that made it an even easier decision."
Now, after spending his first 12 seasons in the NHL in Toronto, Kaberle finds himself joining a new team for the second time in less than a year.
"I hope I fit well," Kaberle said. "This is a great bunch of guys in here. A young team, fast team, and hopefully we can do something special here as well."
Kaberle is off to a bit of a slow start with the Hurricanes, managing just one point and a minus-5 rating in his first five games, though his lone point was a power-play assist against the Bruins last Wednesday in Carolina.
"I think Tomas has played like our group," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. "We've all felt a little bit of a slow start but there's a lot of good and in the last couple games our power-play numbers aren't incredible but we've scored five and he's a big part of that. That one unit has been doing most of the damage on it. He's been good."
Maurice wasn't worried about any distractions affecting Kaberle on Tuesday. Instead, he was hoping the veteran defenseman would embrace the opportunity to celebrate his accomplishment.
"Good for him," Maurice said. "He's a pretty even-keeled guy, a lot of experience and patience, but if there is some emotion, he's earned it. He should be somewhat overwhelmed by getting the Stanley Cup ring and his part in it. I'm happy for him."
Bruins fans weren't always so happy with Kaberle, but he did play a part in the club ending a 39-year Cup drought, and deserves a warm welcome back to Boston Tuesday night — at least until the puck drops.
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