OTTAWA – The Boston Bruins acquired defenseman Tomas Kaberle from Toronto, looking to bolster their blue line as well as their hopes for a Stanley Cup run.
Boston sent prospect Joe Colborne and two draft picks to the Maple Leafs on Friday for the three-time All-Star.
"We felt the time was right with our team," Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said. "So it's a strong message to our team and to our fans that we want to win and we want to be successful."
Kaberle made his debut with the Bruins hours after the deal.
"It's a young team and fast and I think they've got a lot of expectations, and I'm the same way," Kaberle said following the Boston's 4-2 win over the Ottawa Senators.
Besides Colborne, a center taken in the first round in 2008, the Bruins gave up their first-round selection in 2011; they also would send the Maple Leafs a second-round pick in '12 if they re-sign Kaberle or reach the Stanley Cup finals.
The Bruins still will have the first-round pick they got from Toronto — likely to be a better pick — in the Phil Kessel deal.
The Bruins also traded defenseman Mark Stuart and right wing Blake Wheeler to the Atlanta Thrashers in exchange for center Rich Peverley and defenseman Boris Valabik.
The Bruins lead the Northeast Division and began Friday as the third seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race with 24 games left in the regular season.
"It's a huge boost," Bruins All-Star defenseman Zdeno Chara said after the Ottawa game. "It's something to get very excited about. Every team is trying to improve every year and our management team really stepped it up and did a hell of a job."
Last season the Bruins were knocked out in the second round of the playoffs by Philadelphia, dropping four straight games after taking a 3-0 lead.
"I looked at the two deals tied together and how they have improved our team," Chiarelli said. "We felt that we needed a player like Tomas, a player with good vision, a good skater, can quarterback a power play, has played many, many games in the league. Very smart, heavy player, can skate. ... It was an important piece for us to get, and obviously we had to pay a price."
The Bruins also acquired center Chris Kelly from Ottawa earlier this week.
The 32-year-old Kaberle had spent his entire career with the Maple Leafs and was the only player remaining from the team's last playoff season in 2004. He is in the final year of a contract that pays him $4.25 million and will become an unrestricted free agent in the summer.
"The player did not want to leave, he asked for a (contract) extension several times," said Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke said.
It was a nonstarter for Burke, who indicated he didn't think he would be able to pay Kaberle what he would want when his contract came due this summer.
Chiarelli said the Bruins will wait until after the season to talk with Kaberle about an extension.
"He's a guy that we want to re-sign," Chiarelli said. "Of course there is a chance we won't re-sign him, but I want to re-sign him, we want to re-sign him. ... I think it would be smooth sailing to sign him when it comes to that time. So it's an important part of this deal because we are giving up significant assets."
Selected in the eighth round of the 1996 draft, Kaberle appeared in just two AHL games before making the jump to the NHL. He's represented the Czech Republic in three Olympics — winning bronze in 2006 — and leaves Toronto as the franchise's second-highest scoring defenseman in history.
His 520 points (83 goals and 437 assists) trail only the 762 registered by Borje Salming. His ability to carry the puck and create offense is something Boston needed.
"We feel Kaberle is definitely one of those guys that can provide us with that," Bruins coach Claude Julien said before the game in Ottawa. "We also talked about our power play and needing somebody back there that can be a quarterback and he's someone who's done that for a long time.
"He covers a couple of important needs that we addressed over the course of the season."
With the Feb. 28 trade deadline approaching, it was the third deal the Maple Leafs made in a little over a week. Francois Beauchemin was dealt to Anaheim on Feb. 9 for Joffrey Lupul and a prospect, and Kris Versteeg was sent to Philadelphia on Feb. 14 for first- and third-round picks in 2011.
While Kaberle and Kelly played for Boston on Friday, Peverley will join the team Sunday in Boston. Valabik will report to Providence of the AHL.
Wheeler had 11 goals and 16 assists for Boston, and Stuart had five points in 31 games this season.
Peverley had 14 goals and 20 assists in 59 games for the Thrashers this season. Chiarelli said he will help replace Marc Savard, who has been shut down for the season because of a concussion.
Colborne was assigned to the American Hockey League's Toronto Marlies after the trade.