Frenzied friends

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:42 AM ET

Mike Van Ryn is still a Florida Panther, but that hasn't stopped those close to him from predicting a blue-and-white future for the veteran NHL defenceman.

From the moment reports surfaced Thursday that Van Ryn would be on his way to the Maple Leafs in a couple of weeks as part of a deal that would send Bryan McCabe to the Panthers, Van Ryn has been pelted with phone calls and e-mails from his native town of London, Ont.

"It's been crazy," he said yesterday from south Florida. "My friends and family all want to know what's going on with the Leafs."

Van Ryn was an Edmonton Oilers fan as a youngster "because of Wayne Gretzky" but admits becoming a Leafs supporter, like many in his family, after that.

With all the frenzy going on in London about the potential deal, which could take place as early as Sept. 1, Van Ryn will not take anything for granted until a trade is made official.

"I haven't heard anything so I'm still a Florida Panther," he said. "It's neat to hear people talk about Toronto, but my home is down here.

"If the Panthers want to move me, they will. But I like it here. Right now, it's just business as usual getting ready for the regular season."

The 29-year-old Van Ryn played only 20 games last season before undergoing surgery on his right wrist. Time, he said, has been the best recipe for the healing process.

Growing up in southwestern Ontario, Van Ryn often found himself on the same ice surface as Joe Thornton. The parents of the two players are close friends.

One of Van Ryn's buddies is Boyd Devereaux, who has been with the Leafs the past couple of seasons.

He also played with new Leafs winger Jamal Mayers in St. Louis with the Blues.

Van Ryn's best year to date was his first in Florida -- 2003-04 -- when he racked up 13 goals and 37 points.

Sportsnet reported Thursday that the Leafs and Panthers had agreed in principle to the framework of a trade involving McCabe and Van Ryn. A deal, however, would not happen until McCabe receives a $2-million US signing bonus from the Leafs at the beginning of next month.

One player who apparently will not be moved is Pavel Kubina. Yesterday was the final day of the window in which the no-trade clause in his contract was moot, meaning it has kicked in again as of today.

RING THE BELL

According to Leafs general manager Cliff Fletcher, winger Mark Bell was expected to finish his obligations at a California correctional facility this week and will be attending training camp next month.

"We know he is in good physical shape because there were facilities there where he could work out," Fletcher said. "He'll come to camp and have to show (coach) Ron Wilson he should make the team."

NHL NOTES

The Tampa Bay Lightning will play an exhibition game against Slovakia's HC Slovan before their opening regular season game in Prague against the New York Rangers. The Sept 30 contest in Bratislava will be the first NHL exhibition game played in Slovakia ... Former Leaf Alyn McCauley has joined the Queen's University coaching staff as an assistant. McCauley last played in the NHL in 2006-07 with the L.A. Kings. The 31-year-old's nine-year career also included a stint in San Jose. He was nominated for the Selke Trophy as the league's top defensive forward in '03-04.


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