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Looks like they want ot offer 3 yrs at less than 5 mill. The guy is 31, and being a contender for the Norris I say we trade him and try to get some youth in return. Our defence is just plain old.

`I love it here,' says defenceman

March 9 trade deadline looms
Mar. 3, 2006. 01:00 AM

Bryan McCabe's priority is to remain a Toronto Maple Leaf.

However, the Leafs star has a free-agency option this summer, and he won't be shy about using it.

"I said I love it here and I do," McCabe said yesterday after a Star report outlined how the Leafs might trade him if they fail to sign him, rather than lose him to free agency July 1 for nothing in return.

"Free agency is a once in a lifetime chance, but sometimes the grass isn't greener on the other side. Time will tell, I guess."

Like the cool customer he is on the ice, McCabe perfectly balanced his contract options between the Leafs and free agency. But while the Leafs are his first choice, the apparent gap in money and years in his current contract negotiations suggest the Leafs could lose him.

Over the past two months, the Leafs have tried to re-sign McCabe.

In an ideal world, they would have made a dual announcement, lauding the signing of both Tomas Kaberle and McCabe as the blue-line tandem to lead them through the next several seasons.

Kaberle inked a five-year, $21.25 million (all figures U.S.) contract just before the Olympics, a deal based on the importance of Kaberle's puck carrying expertise in the new NHL, and the fact he is entering the prime of his career at age 27.

Talks with 31-year-old McCabe have reportedly soured, with the club interested in nothing more than three years at somewhere under $5 million per year.

McCabe, who is on pace to lead the Leafs and all NHL defenceman in scoring, pegs his worth at $5 million plus, the same money Pittsburgh paid Sergei Gonchar, who was the NHL's top-scoring defenceman for most of the past five seasons.

With the March 9 trade deadline approaching, the Leafs are facing a reality check: can they afford McCabe, and if not, should they trade him.

"I've never even thought about it," said McCabe, who becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1 if the Leafs fail to sign him.

"I've never done a contract in mid-season. If it gets done, it gets done between my agent and management. If it doesn't get done, it will take care of itself later on, that's what summers are for."

McCabe, who is on the tail end of a four-year deal that pays him $3.458 million this season, has laid down roots in Toronto, but spends his summers outside of New York City, where his wife is from.

The couple were given the Hollywood celebrity treatment last year when their downtown residence was a feature renovation on HGTV's The Designer Guys. They've recently become proud parents for the first time, and McCabe's wife, Roberta, had her 1969 Chevelle overhauled at Ed Belfour's Carman Customs.

McCabe said his best-case scenario would be to sign long term in Toronto.

But he has also emerged as the Leafs best player and the NHL's top scoring defenceman, achievements that cannot be overlooked on the open market.

"I love Toronto, I love the guys we have on our team, and we have the best fans in the world," McCabe said.

"I'd love to stay here, but all that stuff is going to take care of itself."
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