Grading Maple Leafs’ Trade for McCabe & Lafferty

The Toronto Maple Leafs are going for it. Ten days after acquiring Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari from the St. Louis Blues, general manager Kyle Dubas made another splash. This time, he traded for Jake McCabe and Sam Lafferty from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a couple of picks, a prospect, and a roster player. Here are the full details: 

The Maple Leafs had already strengthened their forward depth with O’Reilly and Acciari, but it’ll get even more of a boost by adding Lafferty to the fold. Their biggest weakness heading into the playoffs was on defense, but Dubas got his guy, as McCabe should improve their top four quite a bit. On the other end, the Blackhawks did well for themselves too. Let’s grade each side. 

Leafs Going All Out at the Deadline

If there was any question about the Leafs’ intentions heading into the playoffs, that’s long gone. Not only are they trying to end their drought of 18 years without a playoff series win, but they’re going for a deep run. And to do so, it looks likely that they’ll have to go against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Round 1 once again. 

Related: THW’s 2023 Trade Grades

Let’s start with McCabe, who’s the main piece in this trade. While he’s not a flashy, offensive defenseman, he’s a steady two-way blueliner that the Maple Leafs needed more of on the back end. He plays against tough competition, and with his last two teams (the Blackhawks and Buffalo Sabres), he’s more than held his own in a top-pair role as a shutdown defender:

McCabe may be known for his defense, but he’s not a black hole offensively. His offensive impacts are solid, and he is on pace to total 28 points. The Blackhawks retained 50 percent on his $4 million cap hit, which runs through the 2024-25 season. Where the Maple Leafs decide to play him remains to be seen, but he should fit in somewhere in the team’s top four and theoretically move Morgan Rielly into easier minutes. 

As for Lafferty, he’s having a career season and is on pace for 15 goals and 31 points. While nothing spectacular, he’s been solid at even strength. But where he should give the Maple Leafs more value is on the penalty kill. He has four shorthanded goals, and his shot suppression down a man has been decent. His contract runs through next season at a cap hit of $1.15 million. Plus, he can play left wing or center. 

Not only did Dubas help the team for this coming postseason with this trade, but he set them up to have continued success for the next season or two. And he once again did it without giving up the team’s top prospects. 

Maple Leafs Grade: A- 

Blackhawks Continue Fire Sale

There wasn’t any question about the Blackhawks’ plans for this season. They’re firmly in the sweepstakes for Connor Bedard, the top prospect in the 2023 draft, and it’s not like it’s been a secret. They continued their sell-off by dealing McCabe and Lafferty and receiving more futures. While the first-round pick is in 2025, it’s in the Michael Misa class that could shape up as another good one. That’s not to say the Leafs will be a lottery team in 2025. They won’t, but it never hurts to have extra first-round picks for a rebuilding team. 

Related: NHL Trade Bait List for the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline

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The first-rounder was the main piece for the Blackhawks, but Joey Anderson has shown well for the Maple Leafs in limited minutes this season. In 129 minutes in the NHL, he totaled an expected goals percentage of 69.33 percent at five-on-five. The Maple Leafs controlled 70.19 percent of the scoring chances with him on the ice, so there’s something there to suggest he could thrive with more of an opportunity, which he should get in Chicago. 

Jake McCabe Chicago Blackhawks
The Chicago Blackhawks’ fire sale continued with the trade of Jake McCabe and Sam Lafferty to the Maple Leafs (Photo by Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Gogolev is an interesting prospect. He was absolutely tearing up the ECHL at the time of the trade, with 21 goals and 48 points in 33 games with the Newfoundland Growlers. The Blackhawks will likely start him off in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Rockford IceHogs and see where it goes. But there’s certainly some intrigue and upside with the 23-year-old winger. 

In addition to the two young players and the 2025 first-round pick, the Blackhawks also acquired a 2026 second-rounder from the Maple Leafs. Time will tell what general manager Kyle Davidson decides to do with that selection, but it now gives the Blackhawks more than the usual seven draft choices in three of the next four drafts. The 2025 first also gives them two first-rounders in each draft through 2025. They have the futures they need for a rebuild. Now it’s about turning them into NHL talent down the road. 

Blackhawks Grade: B+

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