McCabe gets help

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:57 AM ET

Bryan McCabe will be happy to share the wealth this winter.

The Maple Leafs defenceman will arrive at training camp on Thursday with a five-year, $28.75-million US deal and, coming off a career season, expectations will be high.

But the signing of Pavel Kubina should mean that McCabe won't be under the gun to score every time he unloads his big shot from the blue line. And more importantly, McCabe and defence partner Tomas Kaberle won't have to be on the ice every time the situation is critical.

"We have been logging a lot of minutes over the past few years and we both like to play a lot, but there is a happy medium in there," McCabe said yesterday. "You don't want your game to suffer down the stretch when you need to win."

No National Hockey League player was on the ice more on average last season than McCabe, who came in at 28 minutes, 17 seconds. Kaberle averaged seven seconds less than McCabe.

Though both are seen by the team as cornerstones, it was too much. Having Kubina, and to a lesser extent Hal Gill, as teammates should make life easier for McCabe and Kaberle. Gill will take some of the penalty-killing time away.

Still, the heat won't dissipate completely. McCabe had personal highs of 19 goals, 49 assists and 68 points last season and won't be able to go hide in a corner.

"That's the way this town works but I am not going to change anything," McCabe said, after his first workout at Lakeshore Lions Arena. "I'm not setting any goals for points or anything. I just want to improve and be a little more consistent and get this team in the playoffs. I'll still be working my (tail) off every night."

Despite signing his contract, McCabe didn't have a great summer. His wife had major surgery in June, which delayed the signing of the pact. And though all is well now on the home front, the Leafs' inability to make the playoffs last spring didn't stop bothering McCabe.

"Making the playoffs is all anyone cares about," McCabe said. "I think our main focus this year has to be just get in and see what happens. Last year was a big disappointment and we all had a long summer to think about it."

Kaberle, who also joined his teammates for the first time yesterday at Lakeshore, got to see the fruits of the playoffs up close after his brother, Frantisek, won the Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes.

"He only had it for one day, but I couldn't touch it,"Kaberle said. "Bad luck."

FERGUSON LOOKS LONG TERM

John Ferguson isn't worried about his job.

Many see the Maple Leafs general manager as a lame duck because he has not signed a contract extension past the 2006-07 season, but Ferguson has a different take.

"This has never been about me,"Ferguson said. "It's about getting our club in a position to win and we're confident in what we have accomplished this summer. I've been instructed to manage and run this club like I am going to be here a long time, and I have been doing that."

ROSTER SET

The Leafs have invited 41 players to camp, which opens with medicals and fitness tests at the Ricoh Coliseum. The list does not include possible invitees from the Leafs rookie camp.

The Leafs' rookies will face the Montreal Canadiens rookie squad today at 4 p.m. at the Ricoh in the rookie tournament final. John Mitchell scored his tournament-leading fifth goal yesterday as the Leafs beat the Florida Panthers 5-3.


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