Maple Leafs Continue to Load Up With McCabe, Lafferty Trade

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager (GM) Kyle Dubas said that he wanted to add a forward and a defenseman when he met with the media after the All-Star Break. Now, we can say he stuck to his word. In addition to the acquisitions of Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari a week ago, Dubas fired off another trade. On Monday afternoon, he acquired defenseman Jake McCabe and forward Sam Lafferty from the Chicago Blackhawks. 

The Maple Leafs stepped into their draft capital once again, trading their first-round pick in 2025 and their second-round pick in 2026, as well as forward Joey Anderson and prospect Pavel Gogolev. The Blackhawks also retained 50 percent of McCabe’s salary in the move, and the first-round pick is top-10 protected. It comes after reports that the Maple Leafs were interested in McCabe and had been for much of the season.

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The move comes only 15 hours after the Tampa Bay Lightning traded a haul for Nashville Predators forward Tanner Jeannot, and only days after the Boston Bruins beefed up their defensive corps and bottom six, acquiring defenseman Dmitry Orlov and forward Garnet Hathaway from the Washington Capitals. If nothing else, this is a move to show that the Maple Leafs mean business this year, and that they aren’t setting their goals at simply winning a playoff round. 

Maple Leafs Find Their Muzzin Replacement 

The primary reason the Maple Leafs had a defenseman in their sights was to replace defenseman Jake Muzzin. It was announced following the All-Star Break that he would miss the remainder of the season with a cervical spine injury sustained in the fourth game of the season. He logged more ice time than any other Leaf defenseman in the first round against Tampa Bay last season, and his style of play was a perfect counter to their heavy forecheck. 

Jake McCabe Chicago Blackhawks
Jake McCabe, former Chicago Blackhawk (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

While the Maple Leafs have been good defensively on paper this season, having allowed the sixth-fewest goals in the entire league, the lack of a Muzzin-type defenseman in the top four was something that had real potential to get exposed against Tampa Bay. And as far as defensemen on the market go, McCabe is about as close as you’re going to get to what Muzzin brought. The 6-foot-1, 204-pound defenseman has 122 hits on the season, second on his team only to forward Reese Johnson.

Not only is McCabe a physical presence, but he plays a solid stay-at-home game that will bolster a Maple Leafs penalty kill that’s had some issues without Muzzin. As seen in the tweet below, his defensive presence was a rarity on a Blackhawks defensive corps that’s struggled mightily this season. Acquiring him allows the Maple Leafs to take some pressure off of Mark Giordano and likely gives one of Rasmus Sandin or Timothy Liljegren a reliable partner to allow them to play their own games more comfortably. 

Just to add icing on the cake, he’s under contract for two more years after the 2022-23 season, and with Chicago paying 50 percent of his salary, he’ll only cost $2 million against the cap, the same as what Justin Holl currently makes.

Maple Leafs Bolster Depth With Lafferty 

The Maple Leafs showed what kind of identity they wanted in their bottom six when they acquired Acciari alongside O’Reilly in last week’s trade with the Blues, and Lafferty will only further cement that identity. A native of Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, the 27-year-old winger, like Acciari, can play both centre and wing. He has 10 goals and 21 points in 51 games to go along with 94 hits on the season, and like McCabe, he’s got term on his deal. He’s signed for this season and next season at an average annual value (AAV) of $1.15 million. 

Sam Lafferty Chicago Blackhawks
Sam Lafferty former Chicago Blackhawk (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The 27-year-old is currently in his fourth NHL season, having spent the first two and a half of his career with the Pittsburgh Penguins. They traded him to the Blackhawks for Alexander Nylander in a 1-for-1 trade last January, and he remained with them until the trade. Like Acciari, Lafferty is a relentless forechecker and hard worker who, like McCabe, will bolster the team’s penalty kill. He averaged more short-handed time on ice (TOI) than any other Blackhawks forward at 1:58 per game. 

Maple Leafs Likely to Trade a Roster Player 

Believe it or not, the Maple Leafs more than likely still aren’t done. The team doesn’t play until Wednesday, and after the latest acquisitions, they have 13 forwards and eight defensemen on their roster. 

DailyFaceoff insider Frank Seravalli reported that there was some smoke between the Maple Leafs and the Vancouver Canucks regarding forward Alex Kerfoot, which makes sense. He’s currently making $3.5 million to play in a fourth line role, and he’s also a native of Vancouver to boot. While he’s looked better on the new-look fourth line with Acciari and Zach Aston-Reese, it’s simply too much money for somebody whose job was made redundant with the recent acquisitions.

I can’t imagine the Maple Leafs want to risk losing Conor Timmins on waivers after recently signing him to a contract extension, so it’s safe to assume they’ll be trading somebody on their defensive corps to open up some more cap space. Justin Holl seems like the obvious move here, unless they plan on blowing it up even further by dealing Rasmus Sandin in a package for either another high-end player or picks/prospects. I can’t imagine that’s the case given how much they’ve valued Sandin in the past. 

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Either way, what I can tell you is this — never in the Auston Matthews era have the Maple Leafs splurged at a deadline like this. They’ve always been more conservative with their moves, upgrading where necessary but not doing anything crazy. Dubas, in my opinion, has earned a pass for what he’s done with the team this year. It’s objectively the best team they’ve iced in years, and it’s now fully on the players to take that next step.

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