Aside from the fact that Barry Melrose was going to be hired as the new head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning, this qualifies as the summer's worst-kept hockey secret.
Bryan McCabe's going to be dealt by the Maple Leafs to Florida today, with the holdup in the deal that was worked out weeks ago being that McCabe needed to be paid a $2-million bonus yesterday before the Panthers would finalize the deal. McCabe's already relocated to Florida, and while it's not hard to believe he'll play a lot better outside of Toronto, which became his personal purgatory, you have to wonder if refusing to be traded last winter has worked out well for him, given that he's now been shunted aside to join the endless mediocrity in Florida.
Meanwhile, so much for the constant bleating of those who said it would be impossible to trade McCabe and his five-year, $29-million contract.
Can't say this is a bad trade for the Leafs, and can't say it's a good one that will help significantly. It certainly shouldn't be heralded as any great achievement, for having to move McCabe is really a sign of failure for both the team and player after he was signed to his lucrative contract and managed to play out only two of the five years in Toronto before finding it impossible to stay any longer. Mike Van Ryn is four years younger and the Leafs gain some salary cap flexibility, although with the club's payroll now at $46 million and the cap at $56.7 million there didn't seem to be an urgent need to chop salary.
It's the final nail in the coffin of the comfy cartel that was the Muskoka Five, but more than anything, its another piece of intriguing evidence on the manner in which the Leafs have struggled terribly to manage assets in the post-lockout era.
Cast your mind back two years to the middle of the 2006-07 season. Mats Sundin was a point-per-game centre, McCabe a 57-point offensive threat from the blueline, Darcy Tucker a respected 24-goal shooter, Andrew Raycroft a reasonably solid workhorse goalie and Kyle Wellwood an emerging talent who ended up with 42 points in 48 games that season.
For that group of five players, which partially comprised what the team described as its core, the Leafs have harvested very little, although Sundin, theoretically, might still come back (Why in the world would he?). Well, they've harvested Van Ryn, a draft pick and whatever other bits might accompany the deal today. Otherwise, zippo.
You can blame John Ferguson Jr. or whoever you want, or the nature of no-trade contracts or the difficulty of operating in a cap world.
But these are the facts. The Leafs had those assets, overvalued most of them, held on to some of them too long and ended up with little in return when those assets were moved elsewhere. The Leafs used to be able to compensate for this type of weak, wasteful management when they could just go out and buy as many players as they needed, something that's been a lot more difficult to do since the end of the lockout to end all lockouts.
In fact, the Leafs had to pay Tucker, Raycroft and now McCabe to go away, just as they did with Tie Domi and Ed Belfour. The reminder of Tucker, for instance, won't be a young player or draft pick but the $1 million annual cap hit that will show up on the Leaf books for the next six years.
Anyway you cut it, this has been a period of horrific asset management for the Leafs, one of the reasons the cupboard looks distressingly bare as they head into a season in which winning 30 games will likely be a significant challenge.