TORONTO – The remodelling of the Toronto Maple Leafs continues.
The Maple Leafs have dealt veteran defenceman Bryan McCabe and a fourth-round pick in 2010 to the Florida Panthers for blue-liner Mike Van Ryn, ridding the team of its biggest contractual obligation.
McCabe had to waive a no-movement clause to complete the deal.
He had been one of the longest-serving Maple Leafs, having been acquired in a trade from Chicago on Oct. 2, 2000.
The 33-year-old came into his own in Toronto after bouncing from the Islanders to the Canucks to the Blackhawks earlier in his career. More recently, however, he developed into a scapegoat for fans who thought his performance dipped after signing a US$28.75-million, five-year contract in 2005-06.
He’ll get a fresh start in Florida.
“We are very pleased to have acquired a player with Bryan’s talent level and playing experience,” Panthers GM Jacques Martin said in a statement. “Bryan is a big, strong, hard-hitting defenceman who also possesses the ability to be a goal-scorer and play on special teams.
“He will be counted on to play an integral role on our defence and to help bring future success to our franchise.”
McCabe’s contract is the main reason the rebuilding Leafs were looking to make the trade.
His annual salary cap hit for the next three seasons will be $5.75 million even though the Panthers will only have to pay him $4.15 million per year on the front-heavy deal. The Maple Leafs are on the hook for a $2-million bonus that was due on Monday.
Van Ryn has two years remaining on his contract and will earn $3.35 million each season. His cap hit is only $2.9 million so the Leafs have freed up $11.45 million over the next three years.
This marks the latest move for Leafs general manager Cliff Fletcher as he continues to remake a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since before the NHL lockout. Earlier this summer, Fletcher decided to buy out winger Darcy Tucker and backup goalie Andrew Raycroft and waive centre Kyle Wellwood.
It’s also looking extremely likely that the Leafs will start a training camp without Mats Sundin for the first time since before the 1994-95 season. The team’s long-time captain was interviewed on Toronto radio station AM640 on Tuesday and indicated he likely won’t make a decision about his future before camps open.
“I haven’t even looked at different options or teams or where to play,” said Sundin. “That’s not even my first question. My first question is: ‘Do I want to play anymore?’
“I’ve got to get past the personal decision if I’m going to play or not.”
McCabe missed almost two months with a broken hand last season and ended up appearing in 54 games, scoring five goals and putting up 23 points.
His best two seasons in Toronto were the ones immediately before and after the lockout. In 2003-04, McCabe put up 53 points (16-37) and a plus-22 rating while finishing fourth in Norris Trophy voting as the league’s top defenceman.
He had a career-best 68 points (19-49) the season after the lockout and played for Canada at the 2006 Olympics in Turin.
Van Ryn spent the past four seasons with Florida, where he twice reached a career-high 37 points. The 29-year-old played just 20 games a year ago because of a wrist injury.
In 326 career games with St. Louis and Florida, Van Ryn has 27 goals and 118 points.