One line of thought is that Kaberle is in his prime now, and by the time the team is ready to do some playoff damage, he will no longer be a contributor. Sound logic... or is it?
I decided to do a quick check of point contribution by defencemen compared to their age. I thought 9 seasons (from '99-'00 to '08-'09) would be a fairly good range of seasons to draw upon -- 5 years pre-lockout and the 4 years since.
In the first chart, which I called 'Top 100' and is coloured in blue, I sampled the top 100 defencemen from each season ranked by points. This generated 900 players to draw upon. The second chart, called '20-plus' and coloured red, sampled all players over those 9 seasons who got at least 20 pts in a season. This generated 684 players.
In both instances, the average production continued to increase as the players aged.
Now obviously this data is skewed, as there are nowhere near as many 40 year old players (2) as there are 23 year old (more than 40).
...the sample size clearly falls off the table after 35. However, there were still 10 players until 38, so this may be more of a reflection of more physical defencemen retiring after 35 then it is a lack of production out of all elder-statesmen.
The question then is this: is Kaberle the kind of defenceman who can last well into his late 30's? Out of the list of 38 year olds (Scott Stevens, Phil Housley, Teppo Numminen, Rob Blake, Chris Chelios, Mathieu Schneider, Larry Murphy, Paul Coffey, Al MacInnis, Nicklas Lidstrom) only 2 of them (Stevens & Chelios) were still playing a physical kind of defence. The other 10 were all slick-skating, first-pass, power-play quarterback style defence.
I think that Kaberle fits into this kind of mold, and has not taken the career-long beatings and wear & tear of a guy like Stevens or Chris Pronger. His NHL career should be able to last as long as he wants it to (granting the fact that he may head to the Czech Rep. at some point) and could still be contributing 35+ points like his fellow greybeards. Although calling Tomas Babyface a greybeard is a bit like calling Wallin an NHL player...
Given that he's only 31 right now (turning 32 at the trade deadline), Kaberle could still be capable of having another 4-6 highly productive years. And with the help that is surely to come in the next few years ((oh please let help be on the way....)) he should have more outlets to dish to and more skilled players to convert his passes to goals - meaning his production may not dip too far below the 40-pt range in these upcoming playoff years.
Having Kaberle for a few more years may help the likes of White, Schenn, Gunnarsson, Mikus, or others really find their game on the back end, though White might already be pretty close. Sheltering your young guys from the opposition's top PK units until they're ready could allow them to emerge fully developed, as was the case in Pittsburgh with Letang/Goligoski.
So, does this data change your mind on the Kaberle issue?