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McCabe Wants to Remain With Leafs

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

March 7, 2006

TORONTO (CP) -- Bryan McCabe looked up after taking off his shin pads and took a deep breath.

Another day, another round of questions regarding his future with the Toronto Maple Leafs. And again very few answers from the star defenceman.

"It's certainly not anything I need to discuss today,'' the 30-year-old said Tuesday before his team's biggest game of the season against Montreal. "There's a lot more important issues. Like I've said before, my agent and the management will handle that stuff. If it happens, it happens, that's what the summer is for.''

Bryan McCabe has been deadly from the point this season.
(Graig Abel Photography)

Time is ticking away before Thursday's 3 p.m. ET trade deadline and whether Tuesday was the last game for McCabe in a blue and white uniform remains to be seen. McCabe hopes to be in a Leaf jersey come Friday's game at Long Island.

"I would expect to, yeah, I would hope so,'' McCabe answered when asked if he thought he'd survive the trade deadline.

"I love it here, I want to be here,'' he later added. "That's something you can't worry about. The trade deadline comes and goes every year. You can't lose any sleep over it.''

All indications from Leafs GM John Ferguson is that he'd rather keep McCabe, slated to be an unrestricted free agent July 1, even if he can't get him under contract by Thursday. After all, there's still a quarter of the season left to go and it's too early to raise the white flag.

"We're concentrating on winning games and doing what we need to do as an organization and as a club to qualify for the playoffs,'' Ferguson said Tuesday from his Air Canada Centre office.

Ferguson would not comment on any trade speculation or ongoing negotiations with McCabe. The Leafs apparently made an offer to McCabe which was rejected.

"Have you ever heard of a negotiation where you take their first offer? I don't think so,'' McCabe said after his team's pre-game skate. "It'll play out, I'm not too concerned. You guys keep bringing it up. We've got all summer, all the time in the world. It's no big deal.''

The risk for Ferguson is obvious, if he can't get McCabe under contract by July 1 the 10th-year blue-liner can talk to any club in the league. But that's under four months away, giving Ferguson lots of time to court McCabe and his California-based agent Jeff Solomon.

"It's between management and my agent,'' said McCabe. "There's no pressing concern on my part. I've never done a contract during the season. It's really not on my mind.''

Speculation is that McCabe and Solomon want something similar to Sergei Gonchar's $25-million US, five-year deal from last summer. The $5-million salary is probably not what the Leafs have in mind right now.

Some would even argue McCabe shouldn't get a penny more than the $4.25 million a year his defence partner Tomas Kaberle signed for before the Olympic break.

Somewhere between $4.25 million and $5 million is probably where the deal will get done. If it ever does.

"I don't handle that stuff, that's my agent's job,'' McCabe said about the talks. "That's what he gets paid for. I'm just here to play hockey, that other stuff will take of itself when the time is right.''

Leafs head coach Pat Quinn finds himself in a strange spot.

He has no control over McCabe's future but it was he, as Leafs GM at the time, who stole McCabe from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Alexander Karpovtsev and a fourth-round pick on Oct. 2, 2000.

He was asked Tuesday how he felt about McCabe's situation.

"That's a question to a coach and the coach would certainly like to have him here,'' Quinn said, careful not to step on Ferguson's shoes. "Bryan has been improving and has been a strong performer for us and will continue to do that. He's one of our leaders and an important player.''

McCabe, drafted 40th overall in the second round by the New York Islanders in 1993, carried 54 points (17-37) into Tuesday's game, already eclipsing his career best of 53 set in 2003-04.

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