McCABE CONSUMED BY FAMILY CONCERNS 06/21/2006 @ 10:24 AM
RALEIGH, N.C. (June 20) – Defenseman Bryan McCabe and the Toronto Maple Leafs are still on the same page regarding the lucrative, five-year contract extension that was reported three weeks ago, and McCabe’s silence since that time has resulted from a family medical issue that is consuming all of his energy.
McCabe returned a telephone message on Monday afternoon, prior to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final here in Raleigh. He requested, during our conversation, that I not elaborate on the details of his family issue. But, Bryan insisted there is no truth to the speculation that he has backed away from the Leafs’ contract offer; that he is waiting until July 1st to hear from other teams, or that his wife, Roberta, is refusing to live in Toronto. The family concern has simply been all-consuming since news of his contract extension broke. The medical problem will be addressed by the middle of this week and if it’s resolved in the manner the family is hoping for, McCabe indicated he will sign the long-term deal in Toronto. He said he’ll address his family circumstance “when it’s the right time” and that the reason he hasn’t been heard from in almost three weeks is that “it’s nobody’s business what we’ve been going through.”
During that time, however, speculation has run amok over what could have postponed a news conference the Leafs had scheduled for June 1st, to announce the McCabe signing. Word of the $29-million deal leaked out the previous day (May 31st) and McCabe’s sudden disappearance from the radar led to all manner of innuendo – some of it questioning his character. What McCabe has not disputed is the notion that Roberta would be far more comfortable in her home surroundings on Long Island, but he told me in our conversation that hockey business and his current family matter are not related. Logic, however, dictates that if the medical issue is not satisfactorily resolved before July 1st, other options would open to the McCabes in terms of where they choose to live.
Similarly, and as callously as it sounds, the Leafs will have to make a tough and quick decision on McCabe, if he is not in position to put pen to paper in the next four or five days. Though they clearly want him to return and sign their offer as the club’s premier defenseman, the Leafs will have to go in a different direction if McCabe cannot soon commit to the contract, as July 1st (free agency season) is right around the corner. GM John Ferguson could be forced to pull the offer, though that seems like a long-shot.
McCabe told me he wants to sign the deal and that the Leafs are fully appraised of his situation. He’s asked the club, and everyone else, to respect his privacy in this personal matter unrelated to the game.