Is Jake McCabe A Bigger Need for Toronto Now?
As the rumors have intensified around Patrick Kane, whispers about the Blackhawks other potential trade chips have been pushed aside. But the market is still there for one of the team’s top defensemen: Jake McCabe.
One of the teams that has been linked to McCabe consistently has been the Toronto Maple Leafs. They need to upgrade their blue line and McCabe, who has two more years after this on his contract with a $4 million cap hit, has been billed as an ideal fit. If the Blackhawks are willing to eat some of the money he’s due over the coming years, he’s an even better pick-up for Toronto.
So when the Leafs dropped the news on Wednesday that veteran Jake Muzzin won’t return during the regular season or playoffs, it grabbed my attention.
Muzzin was already on LTIR, so there isn’t immediate cap space created by this news.
Toronto already made a major move up front, acquiring centers Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari from St. Louis in a three-team deal. A lot of O’Reilly’s remaining cap hit for this season was taken on by the Blues and Wild, the third team in the trade, so CapFriendly still has the Leafs holding a little over $4.4 million in cap space at the deadline.[Checks notes… that’s more than the cap space required to add McCabe for the rest of this season.]
With all of the other player movement already taking place in the Eastern Conference, it’s easy to see that the Leafs might not be completely comfortable with what they have now. As Kristin Shilton points out in a piece about the Muzzin news on ESPN:
Toronto has cycled through a number of other injuries to its blueline — Rasmus Sandin is currently day-to-day with an ailment — and clarity on Muzzin’s status moving forward gives GM Kyle Dubas a better sense of how to put the Leafs in an optimal position to succeed come playoffs.
We’ll see if Toronto circles back to the Blackhawks to make an offer for McCabe in the coming days. As I’ve noted previously, the belief is that Toronto is the only Canadian team that isn’t on McCabe’s seven-team no-trade list, so it is entirely possible that a deal could happen.
The trouble for the Blackhawks in making a deal with Toronto in the wake of the O’Reilly deal is the assets the Leafs used to make that trade. Now, Toronto only has a third-round pick among the first four rounds of the 2023 NHL Draft. And they no longer have a second or third-round pick in 2024, either.