The Release

The Toronto Maple Leafs announced today that the hockey club has 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 the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for forwards Joey Anderson and Pavel Gogolev, a conditional first round selection in the 2025 NHL Draft (top ten protected) and a second round selection in the 2026 NHL Draft. The Blackhawks will retain 50% of McCabe’s salary as part of the transaction.

McCabe, 29, has collected 20 points (two goals, 18 assists) in 55 games with the Blackhawks this season. In 483 career regular season NHL games with the Blackhawks and Sabres, the Eau Claire, WI native has recorded 119 points (24 goals, 95 assists).

McCabe was originally drafted by Buffalo in the second round (44th overall) of 2012 NHL Draft.

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

Lafferty was originally selected by Pittsburgh in the fourth round (113th overall) in the NHL Draft.

The Details

Two players had to go back the other way to make the SPC math work. How the cap math is working out is not very clear yet.

Jake McCabe has a $4 million cap hit for this year and the next two. With retention, that makes it a $2 million cap hit. He becomes a player as affordable as Justin Holl for two more years, which is partly why the price of acquisition is what it is.

What will decide the ultimate value of this trade is this simple question: Is Jake McCabe, on the Leafs, a better player than all but the top three of the Leafs defence corps? Those three are Morgan Rielly, TJ Brodie and Mark Giordano. Neither Rasmus Sandin nor Timothy Liljegren have quite cracked that spot that puts them securely above Justin Holl — still the most played defenceman on the Maple Leafs this year.

Sam Lafferty has a $1.15 million cap hit. In order to activate Matt Murray, the Leafs now must clear some space somehow to account for most of these new cap hits.

With Joey Anderson coming directly off the Leafs roster (while he cleared waivers, he was never sent to the AHL) the Leafs will be back at 23 players. The timing of this trade is significant because they had to do this now with the LTIR pool available from Murray’s injury.

Cap Math

Cap Friendly now shows the Leafs with $2,770,833 in LTIR pool with 23 players on the roster. To activate Matt Murray, they need to find just under $2 million. Sending Joe Woll down to make roster room reduces that need to approximately $1,200,000. They can get there either by removing players from the roster or by making a trade. The former option seems extremely difficult to do, considering there are no more waivers exempt players to move, and there aren’t any obvious candidates who would clear waivers. But trading Zach Aston-Reese isn’t going to cut it, not without someone else leaving the roster.

Who Are These Guys

Some analysis on the deal:

And I can’t dispute the editorializing on this view of Anderson.

It might be just experience that Keefe and Dubas wanted, but Anderson looked like a viable player to me. Not a huge loss, obviously, and it’s interesting that the player the Leafs gave up for him was just a contract dump to the Sharks.

Other Issues

The idea is being floated that the Leafs could just not activate Murray until the playoffs. This would seem to me to be vanishingly unlikely given that he’s on the road trip and has discussed his recovery.

The far more likely option is that the Leafs make a trade. It’s reasonable to look at the forward lineup and say they might just remove Alex Kerfoot now that they have more forward depth. The reason he wasn’t ever moved in the past was the lack of other options.

If they do trade Kerfoot now, though, that says to me they aren’t done with making additions.


Likely safe to assume the other pick is similarly entailed. Which is a frankly absurd thing to do with a fifth rounder, but billable hours are billable hours.