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Saturday, February 26, 2011
Rangers pay small price for Bryan McCabe

By Scott Burnside

The high water mark for the newest New York Ranger, Bryan McCabe, may well have come during the 2005-06 season when he was a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Unleashing a massive shot, he roared through the first half of the first post-lockout campaign and was named as an injury replacement for the Canadian Olympic team.

It all seemed a little much for a player who never seemed exactly comfortable in the hot spotlight that hockey success brings in Toronto.

It all went a little south after that, not just for McCabe but also for the Leafs.

McCabe's production dropped in the second half of that season and the Buds missed the playoffs as they would every season since the labor stoppage.

McCabe got back to the 15-goal mark the next season, but slumped to five the following year. He was among a group of players that declined to waive their no-trade or no-move clauses as the Leafs continued to struggle and looked to get younger at the trade deadline.

The group was dubbed the Muskoka Five, a reference to a popular cottage area north of Toronto. It was a stinging jab at the players, implying they would rather enjoy the summer than play in the playoffs.

McCabe ultimately ended up agreeing to a trade to Florida during training camp in 2008, and became the Panthers' captain, toiling away in relative obscurity until Saturday when the Rangers landed him for a third-round draft pick and prospect Tim Kennedy.

It was a relatively small price for the Rangers to pay given McCabe's upside, and it's interesting that there is every possibility McCabe could end up playing his first playoff game since 2004 against his old power-play teammate in Toronto, Tomas Kaberle.

Kaberle, another member of the Muskoka Five, finally cut the cord with the Leafs just over a week ago, agreeing to go to Boston for a first-round draft pick and a former first-round player, Joe Colborne.

It was a big price for a player with very specific skills.

The Bruins fancy themselves Stanley Cup contenders. With uncertainty in both Pittsburgh and Washington, there is a sense the Eastern Conference is wide open and bringing aboard Kaberle, who likewise controlled his fate with a no-move clause and can become an unrestricted free agent in July, was an acceptable risk.

The Rangers may believe they are in the same boat with the exception that they did not have to dip as deeply into their storehouse of assets to obtain a player with some very specific skills.

McCabe, who can also become an unrestricted free agent, averages 21:01 a night in ice time. He has only five goals, but he won't be asked to carry the kind of burden he was in Florida, where offense has long been a problem.

The Rangers, coming off a 6-0 road win against Washington on Friday, will look to slide McCabe into a three/four role on a blue line that has lacked a veteran presence since the trade of Michal Rozsival to Phoenix. Marc Staal, out day-to-day after being crushed by his brother Eric in a game earlier this week, has formed a solid front-line duo with Dan Girardi. McCabe could mix in with a group of Steve Eminger, Michael Del Zotto and Matt Gilroy, who have floated through the team's third defensive pairing. Or coach John Tortorella could move McCabe up and play him with Ryan McDonagh or Michael Sauer. Either way, McCabe becomes a valuable depth tool playing five-on-five and should help a power play that was tied for 20th. Only Staal, who has seven goals, has more than McCabe's five among current Rangers defensemen.

"It was a tough day," Florida GM Dale Tallon told ESPN.com late Saturday afternoon. "He was a helluva captain. We did the best we could for the future of the Florida Panthers."

McCabe had a no-movement clause and when one team, not the Rangers, expressed an interest in McCabe, the defenseman declined to have Tallon further discuss a trade. But when the Rangers called, McCabe agreed to being moved and a deal was struck.

The Panthers now have a first-round pick, two second-round picks, three third-round picks, two fifth-round picks and a sixth-round pick in this June's draft in Minnesota.

And the Rangers got a player who may finally be ready to emerge from some long shadows.