McCabe finished in T.O.

The Maple Leafs want Bryan McCabe to leave Toronto, one way or another. SUN MEDIA/Ernest Doroszuk

The Maple Leafs want Bryan McCabe to leave Toronto, one way or another. SUN MEDIA/Ernest Doroszuk

STEVE SIMMONS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:05 AM ET

Bryan McCabe has played his last game for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

While no one will come out and confirm that out loud, it has become abundantly clear that whatever future path the Leafs are on does not include McCabe.

The question then becomes: Who blinks first and how?

After just two seasons of an enormous five-year contract signed by John Ferguson Jr., the Leafs would like McCabe to waive the no-movement clause in his contract in order to expedite his departure from the team.

The Leafs have said over and over they will not buy out McCabe the way they bought out Darcy Tucker earlier in the week.

But McCabe, through his agent, Ian Pulver, has been equally clear about his refusal to alter any terms of the negotiated contract. "The remedy to get rid of the player -- and it's becoming more and more clear they don't want him -- is to buy him out ... There is still time to buy him out.

"Bryan's not happy about this, he's not happy about the whole situation. He has spent eight years here and has had lots of great success here. He signed this contract to stay here for what he thought was for the rest of his career."

General manager Cliff Fletcher is not just distancing himself from many of the costly contracts Ferguson left behind: He is doing the uncomfortable, tearing down walls, blowing up buildings, and if necessary, bruising some egos along the way.

"This isn't personal," Fletcher said. "There's no animosity on our part. There has to be dramatic and drastic changes made. And at the end of the day, we have to become a much better hockey team. We're not going to do that by changing one small piece for another small piece. I don't like the word drastic. But the results of most hockey games are decided by the best players. Our best players have to get better."

Translation: He doesn't believe McCabe can be a top defenceman in the National Hockey League anymore. And he doesn't believe new coach Ron Wilson can teach this old dog new tricks.

And Fletcher said he isn't about to come up with more than $10 million to say goodbye to McCabe, especially considering there is a $2 million bonus due this summer and under terms of the collective bargaining agreement the Leafs have to pay all of that, buyout or no buyout.

"The buyout implications are too severe from our standpoint," said Fletcher, who would like to trade McCabe. He doesn't want to participate in McCabe "double dipping" meaning getting paid to leave by the Leafs then getting paid elsewhere for market value.

The Leafs can't, under terms of the CBA, pay McCabe a one-time bonus in order to have him accept a trade elsewhere. So instead, they wait. McCabe waits. Everybody waits to see how this will unfold.

Fletcher can't send the 33-year-old McCabe to the minors the way in which he dispatched goalie Andrew Raycroft, who has cleared waivers. And he can't trade him without McCabe's permission. He won't buy him out the way Tucker was bought out. Which leaves what?

A chance to get paid for not playing with the Leafs.

There already has been discussions about this with Fletcher, his assistant Jeff Jackson and Pulver. There will be more discussions.

"We will find a way to resolve this issue," Fletcher said. The Leafs anticipate that sometime between now and the start of next season, McCabe will realize it's in his best interest to move elsewhere to play, and the contract still assures he will be well compensated for his efforts.

The fall for McCabe has been steep and somewhat unexpected. Once considered one of the best power play defencemen in hockey, McCabe once was voted to the second NHL all-star team and named as an alternate player for Team Canada at the 2006 Winter Olympics as well as being an alternate captain for the Leafs. But all that has come crashing down since signing the five-year, almost $29-million contract with the Leafs.

A contract that made him rich and hockey poor all at the very same time.


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