McCabe's first choice is Toronto

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

Bryan McCabe knows the possibilities could be endless if he decides to explore the open market on July 1, but he doesn't mind the idea of comfort and familiarity either.

Slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, the Maple Leafs defenceman said yesterday his first choice is to re-sign with the Leafs.

"I love Toronto," McCabe said. "It's a great place to play. I love the guys and we have the best fans in the world. That (contract) stuff is going to take care of itself. There are bigger issues to fry here (such as helping to get the Leafs into a playoff position) and that is all I am worried about."

There isn't much more McCabe could do offensively this season. He is the main reason the club's power play was fourth-best in the NHL going into last night. With 24 games remaining, he is on the brink of setting personal highs in the major offensive categories. His 17 goals and 53 points equal career highs, set in 2001-02 and 2003-04 respectively. With 36 assists, the 30-year-old is one short of his personal best, also accomplished two years ago.

However, there's that little thing about his defensive play.

It's not so great.

Still, in the midst of his best NHL season since he broke into the league with the New York Islanders in 1995, McCabe is not yet prepared to fully embrace the concept of free agency.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance, but sometimes the grass isn't greener (on the other side)," McCabe said. "Time will tell, I guess. I hear all this talk about contracts and it has never crossed my mind. I am sure the business side will take care of itself."

McCabe's usual defence partner Tomas Kaberle -- coach Pat Quinn said he would put the two back together tonight in Buffalo against the Sabres -- signed a five-year extension worth $4.25 million US a season last month.

McCabe makes $3.458 million this season and wouldn't mind getting his hands on a multi-year pact worth $5 million a season.

TRADE SPECULATION

Agent Jeff Solomon and Leafs general manager John Ferguson have had not much more than preliminary discussions regarding a new deal for McCabe.

There has been speculation the Leafs might try to trade McCabe before the deadline on Thursday if they don't have him signed, but that could depend on how they fare in their next three games before then.

Quinn does not think McCabe will be distracted by the off-ice issues.

"He has to think about playing," Quinn said. "As a veteran, that is what we expect."


Videos

Photos