McCabe gracious as he rides off into sunset

Bryan McCabe, the sixth-highest scoring defenceman in Leafs history, has been traded to Florida....

Bryan McCabe, the sixth-highest scoring defenceman in Leafs history, has been traded to Florida. (Sun Media/Craig Robertson)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:26 AM ET

The New York Rangers. The Florida Panthers.

Those were the teams Bryan McCabe presented to the Maple Leafs as preferred destinations for a trade this summer after realizing the Toronto organization no longer wanted him.

When the Rangers shelled out $6.5-million US per season for former Ottawa Senators defenceman Wade Redden, they plugged a blue line hole via free agency, leaving the Leafs to concentrate on the Panthers as a trading partner.

That highly-anticipated swap finally came to fruition yesterday when McCabe, the sixth-highest scoring defenceman in Leafs history, was shipped to Florida along with a fourth-round pick for blue-liner Mike Van Ryn, the London, Ont., native who was pursued by Toronto in 2000.

"It was difficult," McCabe told Sun Media during a phone interview from south Florida last night.

"I wanted to finish my career in Toronto, but it was clear at the end of last season that they wanted me to move on.

Something had to give.

"I'm not bitter. The situation was handled pretty amicably. I just see Florida as having a good, young team, one I'm excited to be joining."

McCabe refutes the suggestion that he refused to waive his no-movement clause last spring.

"I had a meeting with (Leafs general manager Cliff Fletcher) right before the trade deadline and told him I was open to anything if it was presented to me," McCabe said.

"He never got back to me."

Asked if he had a message for Leafs fans, many of whom booed him in his latter years in Toronto, McCabe said he had a great time.

"Thanks for the memories," he said. "They were all good.

" I cherished playing in the best hockey market in the world."

Van Ryn, meanwhile, plans to leave today on his drive to southern Ontario and wants to participate in informal workouts with his new teammates as early as Monday. Both he and Fletcher claim his one-time troublesome wrist has completely healed after being operated on last season, during which he played just 20 games.

LOVES THE LEAFS

Having grown up in an environment of Leaf fans -- "I think almost all of Maple is made up of my family," he said, jokingly.

Van Ryn last night recalled the time when his dad, Ted, brought home a stick that then-Leaf Dave Andreychuk had broken during a pre-game warmup at Maple Leaf Gardens.

"Somehow dad managed to turn that broken stick into a blade that I actually used in minor hockey. That's back when I scored more," said Van Ryn, who has 118 points in 326 career games.

"I had a signed Doug Gilmour stick, too, like everyone else.

"I'm very excited."

Van Ryn's wife, Amber, is a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader. Given that the spouse of newcomer Niklas Hagman is a former Miss Scandinavia, the Leafs wives' room certainly has received a facelift for the upcoming season, much like the team's roster.

McCabe will cost the Panthers $4.15 million for each of the next three seasons, but the salary cap hit will be $5.75 million per campaign. Van Ryn gets $3.35 million for each of the next two seasons from the Leafs but chews up only $2.9 million of cap space per season.


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