Maple Leafs trade for Blackhawks’ Jake McCabe: How it fits into Chicago’s rebuild

By Mark Lazerus, Scott Powers and Joshua Kloke

The Blackhawks are trading defenseman Jake McCabe to the Maple Leafs, Toronto announced Monday. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Chicago received a 2025 conditional first-round pick, a 2026 second-round pick, Joey Anderson and Pavel Gogolev in exchange for McCabe, Sam Lafferty, a 2024 conditional fifth-round pick and a 2025 conditional fifth-round pick .
  • McCabe had 20 points (two goals and 18 assists) in 55 games with the Blackhawks this season.
  • The 29-year-old defenseman is plus-7 this season.
  • McCabe signed a four-year contract with Chicago in July 2021 after spending eight seasons with the Buffalo Sabres.

AthleticismInstant analysis of:

How does this trade fit into Chicago’s rebuilding plan?

Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson has been chasing as many high draft picks as he can get since being promoted last season. This trade continues this trend. He probably would have liked first- and second-round picks earlier than 2025 and 2026, but those are still early draft picks in the near future. With those draft picks now added to the tally, the Blackhawks have seven first-round picks and eight second-round picks over the next four drafts. Additionally, they just had three first-round picks and two second-round picks in 2022.

If the Blackhawks can hit enough of those picks, especially if they can get a top-four pick in 2023, they should be on the right track with their rebuild. — Powers


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What do the Leafs get in McCabe and Lafferty?

McCabe’s first season in Chicago, after major knee surgery, was somewhat of a disaster, but he looked like himself this season, a stable, rock-solid defender. Has he been effective this season? Well, the Blackhawks have a minus 53-5-5 goal differential but outscored their opponents 41-39 with McCabe on the ice. He also brings a little grunt and is very popular in the locker room. Having him for two years at just $2 million on the Blackhawks salary continuum is a big deal, even for a future first-round pick. And nearly a decade into his NHL career, McCabe will finally be able to play in a playoff game.

Lafferty, part of a sort of scrap heap for Alex Nylander last year, has established himself in Chicago, emerging as a dynamic force at both ends of the rink. One of the fastest players in the league, Lafferty is always on the move and has hit career highs in goals (10) and assists (11) this season. With his speed and intelligence, he is a highly effective penalty killer, tied for the league lead with four shorthanded goals. — Lazerus


NHL trade ratings: Maple Leafs get high marks for adding Jake McCabe and Sam Lafferty

Why would Kyle Dubas make this gesture?

It’s hard not to read this trade as an effort to keep pace with the ongoing arms race in the Eastern Conference. While the Leafs made one of the biggest swings before the trade deadline with the acquisition of Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari, the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils have all made significant additions over the past. a few weeks.

The Leafs’ road to the Stanley Cup final outside the Eastern Conference will likely go through at least two of those teams, and so the additions of McCabe and Lafferty resemble Toronto general manager Dubas’ efforts to give his equips the kind of depth and physicality that should help them in what could be a grueling playoff race. — Wise

Where does Lafferty stand with the Leafs?

Lafferty stood out in the Leafs’ last two meetings against the Blackhawks in February as an energetic depth forward who can move with the pace and isn’t afraid to throw his body. While he won’t add much offensively, it’s become clear that Dubas and the Leafs want to build a fourth line that can handle the physical toll of the playoffs. Could a line of, say, Zach Aston-Reese, Acciari and Lafferty, for example, wear down the opposition in the playoffs?

While it’s still too early to tell what the team’s bottom six will actually look like come playoff time, you could argue that the Leafs have identified an area of ​​weakness in the previous playoffs, especially when the he team deployed aging veterans who couldn’t keep up with the playoffs, and tried to put things right. — Wise

Where does McCabe fit with the Leafs?

Although McCabe didn’t have his best performance against the Leafs in February, he’s working as a largely reliable top-four defenseman who now has decent heading shots and gives Sheldon Keefe some versatility on his blue line. Some pieces will move: Justin Holl has fallen out of favor, if only slightly, with Keefe lately. Although McCabe is a southpaw, could Holl be moved down the lineup? A more likely scenario: Could this trade all but signal the end of Rasmus Sandin’s playoff chances?

The Leafs needed some meanness to fill the void left by Jake Muzzin’s absence. They’ll likely look to McCabe to be that guy. — Wise

Required reading

(Photo: Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

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