McCabe moved to Calgary, Alberta at a young age and spent the majority of his minor hockey career playing in the Calgary area.
Drafted out of the Western Hockey League (WHL) 40th overall by the New York Islanders in 1993, McCabe competed in the 1995 Memorial Cup and was named to back-to-back WHL First All-Star Teams during his major junior career. He began his NHL career with the Islanders before stints with the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks. In 2000–01, McCabe began a seven-season tenure with the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he played the majority of his career.
Internationally, McCabe competed for Team Canada, winning gold medals at the 1997 World Championships, 1994 and 1995 World Junior Championships and the 1992 Pacific Cup. He is also a one-time Olympian, having represented Canada at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin.
McCabe began playing junior hockey with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League (WHL) in 1991–92. After one and a half seasons in Medicine Hat, he was traded to the Spokane Chiefs. He completed the 1992–93 season with 60 points in 60 games split between the Tigers and Chiefs. That summer, he was drafted 40th overall by the New York Islanders in the second round of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft.
Once drafted, he returned to the Chiefs in 1993–94 and put up a junior career high 84 points in 64 games. In his fourth and final year of junior, he was sent to the Brandon Wheat Kings for the remaining 20 games of the 1994–95 season and he put up a total of 69 points in 62 games and was chosen as a First-Team WHL All-Star.
In 1995–96, McCabe began his NHL career with the Islanders. He recorded 23 points in his rookie season before being traded to the Vancouver Canucks midway through his third year along with Todd Bertuzzi and a third round draft pick in 1998, (Jarkko Ruutu), in exchange for Trevor Linden. He played one and a half seasons with the Canucks before being shipped to the Chicago Blackhawks on draft day in a bid by Brian Burke to draft Daniel and Henrik Sedin second and third overall, respectively. McCabe was packaged with Vancouver's first round draft pick in 2000 in exchange for Chicago's first round draft pick in 1999.
On October 2, 2000, after a 6-goal, 25-point campaign with the Blackhawks in 1999–2000, he was traded once again to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Alexander Karpovtsev and a fourth round draft choice (Vladimir Gusev) in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft.
McCabe found his stride in Toronto and built on a 17-goal, 43-point breakout season in 2001–02, with 53 points two seasons later, culminating in a fourth-place finish in Norris Trophy voting Second Team All-Star honours.
As NHL play was suspended due to the 2004–05 lockout, he signed with HV71 of the Swedish Elitserien. He struggled with HV71 and exercised an escape clause in his contract before a game against Södertälje SK where he was scheduled to be a healthy scratch. He had one goal, no assists, 30 penalty minutes and a -12 rating over ten games.
When NHL play resumed the following season, McCabe emerged with a career high 19 goals, 49 assists and 68 points in 73 games with the Maple Leafs. He finished the season third overall in points among defencemen, behind Nicklas Lidström and Sergei Zubov. Near the beginning of the season, McCabe was recognized as the NHL's Offensive Player of the Week for November 13–19, 2005, and was later named as a reserve on Team Canada's 2006 Olympic team in Turin.
Following McCabe's career year, he signed a 5-year deal with the Leafs worth $28.75 million on June 28, 2006 with a no-movement clause. He put up 57 points in 82 games the following season.
In the dying seconds of overtime against the Buffalo Sabres on October 15, 2007, McCabe scored in his own net; however, the goal was credited to Paul Gaustad.
McCabe was the focus of numerous trade rumours in 2007–08. He was traded to the Florida Panthers on September 2 with a fourth round draft pick in 2010 in exchange for defenceman Mike Van Ryn.
McCabe was named team captain of the Florida Panthers on September 23, 2009, and on November 6, 2009, he played in his 1,000th game in the NHL.
On February 26, 2011, he was traded to the New York Rangers for forward Tim Kennedy and a 3rd round draft pick.
McCabe announced his retirement from the NHL on February 15, 2012.
While in junior, McCabe was a member of three gold medal-winning Canadian teams, the first of which was at the 1992 Pacific Cup in Japan. The under-18 tournament was in just its second year of what is now known as the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. at the 1994 and 1995 World Junior Championships. In 1995, he was named to the tournament All-Star Team and was honoured as Best Defenceman after posting 12 points in 7 games.
After joining the NHL, McCabe appeared in three consecutive World Championships, in 1997, 1998, and 1999, capturing gold in 1997.
On December 21, 2005, McCabe was named as a reserve for Team Canada at the 2006 Winter Olympics at Turin, Italy. On February 2, 2006, he was moved from the reserves to the official roster to replace an injured Ed Jovanovski. Team Canada would fail to defend its 2002 Olympic gold medal and was eliminated by Russia in the quarter-finals.
McCabe has a wife named Roberta, a native of Long Island whom he met during his stint with the New York Islanders and together they have two daughters named Stevie and Jocelyn and a son, Lincolin. They live in Delray Beach, Florida and the family also has a home on Long Island, New York.
WHLWest Second All-Star Team - 1993
West First All-Star Team - 1994
East First All-Star Team - 1995
Memorial Cup All-Star Team - 1995
InternationalWorld Junior All-Star Team - 1995
World Junior Best Defenceman - 1995
NHLOffensive Player of the Week - November 13–19, 2005
Second All-Star Team - 2004