After several stunning trades that saw Alex DeBrincat, Brandon Hagel, and Kirby Dach shipped out, decisions to leave Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalik unqualified, and recent comments from top players suggesting frustration at the Chicago Blackhawks’ long rebuild plan, it’s tough sledding for fans of the team right now. The front office is actively trying to lose next season to secure a better draft position, which has led to plenty of speculation about the future of franchise icons Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
But there are other veterans on the roster, ones that aren’t so far along in their careers or entrenched in the Blackhawks’ history. What about Connor Murphy and Jake McCabe, two defensemen both still on the good side of 30 and capable enough to help almost any team in the league in a certain role?
They won’t be moved, according to Scott Powers of The Athletic, who answered mailbag questions today on all sorts of Blackhawks-related topics. The two veteran defensemen are both expected to stay with the club for the next few years, partly due to their hefty contracts but also because the team wants some capable NHL veterans in place to insulate their young prospects.
McCabe, 28, signed a four-year, $16MM contract with Chicago last summer that includes a seven-team no-trade clause. His $4MM cap hit is easily the largest of his career, and would be a tough contract to extract much surplus value from at this point. Asked to do too much last season, he ended up logging more than 20 minutes a night for the first time since 2017, and was outscored heavily at even-strength. Impressively though, even while receiving absolutely brutal deployment (McCabe rarely started a shift in the offensive zone), he actually did set a career-high in points with 22.
Part of the reason he played so much is because of Murphy’s up-and-down season, which saw him play just 57 games. Now 29, the 6’4″ defenseman is only just now starting the four-year, $17.6MM contract extension that he signed last August, one that includes a ten-team no-trade clause.
Murphy has never played more than 78 games in a single season and now carries a $4.4MM cap hit through 2025-26, making it difficult to trade him even if the Blackhawks wanted to. One thing to note about his deal, however, is that the salary drops to $3.65MM in the final season, and $1MM of that is due in signing bonuses. If there is a time to move him, it might end up being in the summer of 2025 when there is very little actual money owed.
That’s a long time from now though, meaning Murphy and McCabe appear to be stuck with a team that is trying to lose as many games as possible. That’s a tough situation for any veteran to play in, meaning they are still names to keep an eye on as the Chicago rebuild progresses.