While much of the conversation regarding the Chicago Blackhawks and trades has centered on Patrick Kane in the last week, another name has reportedly emerged as a potential trade chip for GM Kyle Davidson.
According to the tweet below from Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic, defenseman Jake McCabe could be high on the list for contending teams in need of some help on the blue line:
Jake McCabe is drawing steady interest from contenders. Signed for 2 more years after this season at a $4M AAV. Sense from sources around league is that the asking price from Blackhawks includes a 1st-RD pick. And if Hawks retain salary making him a $2M player, price increases...— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) February 11, 2023
LeBrun touched on it in the tweet, but McCabe’s contract — along with his play — could make him an extremely attractive trade piece over the next month because he’s locked in at that $4 million deal through the end of the 2024-25 season. With teams strapped for cash as the salary cap has remained stagnant of late, a player who won’t need a new deal for a few seasons is going to be extremely desirable — similar to the situation with Brandon Hagel last year.
McCabe has been very, very good for the Blackhawks this season, too, something discussed a few weeks ago around these parts:
Of the eight blue-liners who’ve skated at least 200 minutes at 5-on-5 this season, McCabe has the best shot attempts share (CF%) at 45.30 percent, and is second-best in shot share (44.66 percent), scoring chance share (43.14 percent) and expected goal share (44.34 percent). The only players above him in those categories are ones who’ve had more favorable zone starts, too. Put it all together, and McCabe has been on the ice for 28 Blackhawks goals and 31 opponents’ goals at 5-on-5, a differential of minus-3 that is the best among Chicago defensemen and looks even better when placed in the context of the team being minus-56 (yikes!) overall this season.
And that was two weeks ago. Although it’s still not the greatest statistic in the world, the fact that McCabe is now up to a team-best plus-3 on a team with a minus-58 goal differential overall just adds more support to what all of the more analytical numbers are saying about McCabe’s game. Put all of those figures together and it adds up to this solid player card from JFresh Hockey’s site:
The immediate conclusion — at least on hockey Twitter — is that the Toronto Maple Leafs will come calling for McCabe because they’ve always needed defensive help. And a defenseman who turns 30 in October at McCabe’s salary cap figure would be a perfect fit for whatever is left out of Toronto’s competitive window before salary cap hell slams it shut. The Maple Leafs still have a first-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, but their GM named Kyle recently told reporters that he may not be willing to part with it:
Kyle Dubas says he "can't see" the Leafs dealing 1st round picks or top prospects like Matthew Knies for rentals. “But with regards to other options I don’t think you say no off the hop to anything. But those are very important pieces to us, for now and in the future.”— Jonas Siegel (@jonassiegel) February 9, 2023
A player of McCabe’s caliber will attract attention in places outside of Toronto, though — so stay tuned on more updates on this part of the process.