According to Frank Seravalli and the crew over at Leafs Nation, the Toronto Maple Leafs have a legitimate interest in Chicago Blackhawks’ defenseman Jake McCabe. As per the NHL insider, the Maple Leafs are one of the few teams McCabe hasn’t listed as a no-go trade destination and the Leafs are seriously looking at him as an option to upgrade their back end.
First Things First for Maple Leafs
While it sounds like the Leafs are interested in McCabe and McCabe is potentially interested in the Leafs, Chris Johnston points out that the team needs to know what’s happening with Jake Muzzin before Toronto can pull the trigger on any deal of significance. Johnston reported during the recent Insider Trading report that Toronto expects to have word on the condition of Muzzin after he sees a specialist in February. The Leafs want some certainty around his ability to return before the playoffs, if at all and if they can’t get it, it’s hard to imagine Toronto being able to make a deal for a player who has a cap hit of $4 million over the next two seasons beyond this one.
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If Muzzin isn’t coming back, GM Kyle Dubas will have the room to maneuver, and getting a solid blueliner like McCabe on their back end would be a stealthy move. McCabe isn’t a rental and he’s not going to cost the Leafs an arm and a leg to acquire. If other teams are out of the running because the defenseman has squashed a possible move to other destinations, perhaps Toronto has a little bit of leverage here.
How the Maple Leafs Could Make This Work
Seravalli notes that the Blackhawks have a ton of cap space and the team has already told the rest of the league they are willing to take on contracts in order to do business. That could benefit Toronto as there’s some potential room to work out a deal for this player when other defensemen come at a high price point and will require giving up major assets for rentals that may or may not stick around.
Seravalli notes that McCabe has a seven-team no-trade list. That already makes it a bit tougher to trade him. He adds, “Here’s where it gets really interesting from a Toronto perspective. What if you can entice the Chicago Blackhawks, who have tons of cap space, to retain half on Jake McCabe and get him at $2 million a year for each of the next two years?” He adds:
“He’s probably already playing at a $4 million level right now, yes there’s risk with injury history and there’s risk with any player, at $2 million per year, that gives you some serious cost certainty at a time the Leafs really need it on their back end.”
Would This Help the Maple Leafs?
Considering the other options available at this year’s trade deadline, McCabe makes a lot of sense. Dubas could get in on the Jakob Chychrun trade talks but he’d be paying a lot to land the offensive blueliner. He too has cost certainty, but $2 million is a lot better than $4.6 million, especially if the Arizona Coyotes are not forced into a position to retain salary.
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McCabe is solid. He often plays with grit and has no issue getting physical. He’ll block shots, lay in hits, and has the experience, even if that experience hasn’t come in the NHL playoffs. He can play either side and the flexibility of both his on-ice skill set and the contract he could come in with have to be an enticing option for Toronto if the Muzzin situation gives them the green light to make a move.
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”