The Toronto Maple Leafs are loading up. After their big move earlier this month, they’ve pulled off another significant trade, acquiring Jake McCabe and Sam Lafferty from the Chicago Blackhawks. In return, the Maple Leafs will send a top-ten protected 2025 first-round pick, a 2026 second-round pick, Joey Anderson, and prospect Pavel Gogolev.
Chicago is retaining 50% of McCabe’s contract, and sending two conditional fifth-round selections to Toronto. If the 2025 first-round selection is in the top ten, Chicago will get Toronto’s 2026 first-round pick instead. CapFriendly reports that the 2024 fifth-round pick that is going to Toronto will be the lowest pick in that round the Blackhawks own at the time of the draft.
The biggest part of this deal for Toronto is the salary retention, as McCabe is not a typical rental. With two more years on his contract, the Maple Leafs will get a discounted defenseman for several playoff runs. His deal carries a cap hit of $4MM, meaning McCabe will cost Toronto just $2MM per season through 2024-25, the same amount as Justin Holl, who is currently scheduled for unrestricted free agency this summer.
McCabe, 29, has been rather productive for the Blackhawks this season, registering 20 points in 55 games—a pace that has him on track to blow past his previous career-high of 22 points. It’s not his offensive ability the Maple Leafs were targeting, though. McCabe instantly becomes the team’s most physical defender, and should help the penalty kill with his long reach, strength in front of the net, and willingness to block shots.
Lafferty is not just a throw-in, either. The 27-year-old forward is having a career year with Chicago, scoring ten goals and 21 points in 51 games. He too, is a physical upgrade for the Maple Leafs, giving them a pretty significant depth chart for the bottom six. With Lafferty and Noel Acciari now in place, the team has added two right-handed faceoff options that can be used on the penalty kill and in the defensive zone to go with their stable of left-shot centers.
It’s a pretty impressive haul for Toronto over the last few weeks, especially when considering they didn’t give up a single roster player. But there is real risk in moving so many draft picks when your group has zero playoff success to show for it to this point. Even McCabe, who seems like he would excel in the postseason, has never actually played in a playoff game nearly a decade into his NHL career.
If the Maple Leafs are bounced again, some painful years could be ahead. But for now, general manager Kyle Dubas is willing to put it on the line and give this group the best chance possible.
One thing to note is that with the addition of McCabe and Lafferty, the Maple Leafs no longer have the cap space to activate goaltender Matt Murray from long-term injured reserve. That was expected to happen in the next few days, meaning either another player will be shipped out, or some other transaction will be made to clear cap.