Leafs lock up McCabe

Bryan McCabe is set to be among the NHL highest-paid defencemen after reportedly re-signing with...

Bryan McCabe is set to be among the NHL highest-paid defencemen after reportedly re-signing with the Maple Leafs for almost $6M per year over five years. (Toronto Sun File/Fred Thornhill)

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:39 AM ET

Bryan McCabe recently admitted finding a message on the answering machine at his Long Island home.

The voice on the other end of the line belonged to none other than Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin, who had some stern advice for the veteran defenceman.

Hurry up and sign with us, Sundin told McCabe.

It looks like the big Swede got his wish.

Amid reports suggesting he was concerned with the direction the Leafs might be headed, Sundin must be thrilled with the news that McCabe has agreed, in principle, to a five-year deal worth about $28.75 million US.

Sources indicated last night that Sundin strongly lobbied Toronto management to make the move.

McCabe was scheduled to fly to Toronto last night and is expected to sign the contract as early as today. There still were some minor language issues to be worked out as of yesterday, but nothing that will prevent McCabe from remaining a Leaf through the 2010-11 season.

Reached at his Long Island home last night, McCabe offered no public comments about his status.

"I'll talk in the coming days," he said.

It was just one week ago that McCabe reiterated his fondness for playing in Toronto.

"It's a place I'm very comfortable," he said at the time.

There had been reports that McCabe might be eyeing one of the Big Apple-area teams. The family of Roberta McCabe, Bryan's wife, lives in the New York area.

But McCabe's love of Toronto, coupled with some sweet features of his new deal, landed him back with the Leafs.

One of the more interesting aspects of the contract is said to be a non-movement clause, meaning the Leafs can not trade him or place him on waivers for the duration of the pact.

The clause would prevent the Leafs from sending McCabe to the farm, if need be, to clear cap space.

McCabe's agent, Jeff Solomon, was in Toronto yesterday attending the NHL agents meeting but opted not to talk about his client's situation.

"I don't think it is appropriate to comment right now," Solomon said.

Leafs general manager John Ferguson, meanwhile, said last night the team was not yet ready to announce a deal.

"We continue to work toward that end," Ferguson told The Toronto Sun's Lance Hornby.

Asked if the team was closer to a deal than before, Ferguson replied, "Yes."

Expect an announcement as early as today.

Critics were howling on a number of fronts. Many could not understand how the Leafs could commit about $10 million in cap space to two defencemen, McCabe and Tomas Kaberle.

The 2006-07 cap is expected to be between $43 million and $45 million.

McCabe's deal might very well boost the asking price of the other prominent pending free-agent defencemen.


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