How Does the Toronto's Trade for Jake McCabe and Sam Lafferty Change the Odds?

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How Does the Toronto's Trade for Jake McCabe and Sam Lafferty Change the Odds?
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If there was any doubt the Maple Leafs were all in for a Stanley Cup run this spring, those have been put to rest.

Maple Leafs And Blackhawks Deal

After acquiring Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari from the St. Louis Blue just over a week ago, they completed a huge deal with the Chicago Blackhawks today. 

They acquired defenceman Jake McCabe, forward Sam Lafferty, a conditional fifth-round selection in the 2024 NHL Draft and a conditional fifth-round selection in the 2025 NHL Draft from Chicago. 

To get all of that, Toronto sent forwards Joey Anderson and Pavel Gogolev, a conditional first-round selection in the 2025 NHL Draft (Top 10 protected) and a second-round selection in the 2026 NHL Draft to Chicago.

The Hawks will retain 50 per cent of McCabe’s salary as part of the deal.

Stanley Cup Futures have already begun to move after news of the trade – BetMGM says the Leafs moved from 11.0 to 10.0 to win the Cup after the deal was announced. 

How New Maple Leafs Have Performed

McCabe, 29, has collected 20 points (two goals, 18 assists) in 55 games with the Blackhawks this season (also a plus-7 on a bad Chicago team). In 483 career regular-season games with the Blackhawks and Buffalo Sabres, the Eau Claire, Wisconsin native has recorded 119 points (24 goals, 95 assists). 

Lafferty, 27, has 21 points (10 goals, 11 assists) in 51 games with Chicago this season. In 191 career NHL games split between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago, the Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania native has collected 53 points (21 goals, 32 assists). 

Toronto Keeping Up With the Joneses

Call it a tit-for-tat with the Boston Bruins – the Bruins acquired defenceman Dmitry Orlov and forward Garnet Hathaway from the Washington Capitals in a huge deal on Thursday. 

The New York Rangers have been loading up, too – first picking up sniper Vladimir Tarasenko in a trade with the Blues. Lots of rumours they are about to acquire Patrick Kane from Chicago.

And on Sunday, the New Jersey Devils pulled off a big trade with the San Jose Sharks, acquiring star right wing Timo Meier.

The Bruins are currently in first place in the Eastern Conference – 45-8-5, for 95 points – followed by the Carolina Hurricanes (39-11-8, for 86 points), the Devils (39-15-5, for 83 points), then the Leafs (37-15-8, for 82 points). 

If the playoffs were to start today the Leafs would face the Tampa Bay Lightning, with home-ice advantage. The Lightning also made a deal with Nashville on Sunday, acquiring forward Tanner Jeannot.

So you know the Leafs were going to do something, with the trade deadline looming on Friday. At the moment they don’t have cap space to activate goalie Matt Murray (they have $2,770,833, according to CapFriendly). Murray is out with an ankle injury but is close to returning, probably sometime during their west coast swing this week, which starts Wednesday in Edmonton against the Oilers.

That will likely mean having to deal someone to create cap room – Alexander Kerfoot and Justin Holl (especially with the McCabe trade) come to mind. 

McCabe, at 6-foot-1, 204 pounds, is a quality, Top 4 defenceman, and plays a physical style – he will be among the team leaders in hits and blocked shots – not dissimilar to injured defenceman Jake Muzzin, and fills out their top core with Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie and Morgan Rielly. 

He’s 29, and not only played on a terrible Chicago team but bad teams in Buffalo. McCabe has never played a game in the playoffs. So how will he fare on a team as talented as Toronto?

McCabe is signed through 2024-25 at a cap friendly $2 million per season.

It makes you wonder what they do with Rasmus Sandin, Timothy Liljegren, Holl and Conor Timmins come playoff time.

Hafferty is having a career season, a solid depth forward, and according to Dubas brings great speed and grit on the forecheck, with a good ability to defend.

Eastern Conference Getting Exciting

The Leafs now own only four picks in the first four rounds of the next three drafts. This is an all-in season – looking at contract years fast approaching for Auston Matthews and William Nylander (both of those players are UFAs in 2024-25), both of whom will get raises. Dubas himself has a contract that expires this summer. This team hasn’t won a playoff round since 2004, so it’s now or never.

What an arms race going on in the NHL’s Eastern Conference. 

While the Bruins are still the top horse in terms of Stanley Cup Futures, the Leafs, if their goaltending can hold up (considering the ongoing Murray injury problems), just put themselves in their best position yet to at least take out the Lightning (despite a lineup that features elite skill plus a physical, strong bottom six), if they end up playing them again them in the first round. 

Unless, of course, the Lightning have a trade response by Friday at 3 p.m.

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Mark Keast

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