NEW YORK -- There was no other place defenseman Bryan McCabe wanted to be other than Manhattan on Sunday afternoon, throwing on a New York Rangers jersey to face the Tampa Bay Lightning at Madison Square Garden.
Well, that's not entirely true. The 35-year-old McCabe wanted to be part of the Florida Panthers' rebuilding process, but the problem with that was the Panthers didn't want him anymore.
Faced with the realization that his time in South Florida was over, McCabe decided he was willing to waive his no-trade clause for one team and one team only -- the Rangers. So the Panthers worked out a deal Saturday that sent McCabe to the Rangers in exchange for Tim Kennedy and a third-round pick in the 2011 Entry Draft.
"Obviously I have a lot of roots here," said McCabe, whose wife is from Long Island, the place where he spent his first three seasons in the NHL with the Islanders. "We spend our summers on Long Island. Three years ago when I was on my out of Toronto, this was one of the teams I really wanted to come to and things didn't work out. But I'm glad they did now and I'm really excited to be here."
The Rangers needed McCabe's veteran presence -- before his arrival, 27-year-old Steve Eminger was their oldest defensemen -- and offensive skills to help their 21st-ranked power play. McCabe didn't pay immediate dividends in his debut, as the Rangers' power play went 0-for-4 with four shots in a 2-1 loss to the Lightning.
McCabe played mostly with Eminger, who was briefly a teammate of McCabe's with the Panthers during the 2008-09 season. McCabe had two shots in 17:35 of ice time Sunday.
"There were nerves for sure," McCabe said. "I was pretty excited for the game. I just need to get to know the guys a little bit more and I will be good."
McCabe, who missed six weeks this season due to a broken jaw and is wearing a face shield with the Rangers, is playing for his fifth NHL team. He has 5 goals and 17 assists in 48 games this season with 7 of his 22 points coming on the power play.
The well-traveled veteran, who acknowledged that he is in his "dog days" and doesn't have much time left in his career to win a Stanley Cup, thinks his transition will be a quick one.
"I've been in a suitcase for many years now, so it shouldn't take long," McCabe said. "I'm just here to play it out and have fun and hopefully make a run in the playoffs and chase a Cup."
The Rangers expect to get defenseman Marc Staal (knee) back in the lineup for Tuesday's home game against the Buffalo Sabres. Michael Del Zotto was assigned to the Connecticut Whale of the AHL to make room for McCabe on the roster.
There were plenty of chances for McCabe to make an impact Sunday with the Rangers winning 65 percent of their draws. But the shots either didn't get through traffic or past Lightning goaltender Dwayne Roloson.
"We had some chances. We won a couple of big draws," McCabe said. "We did a good job with the faceoffs and had some chances to get pucks on net, but just couldn't find it."
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo