ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Blackhawks traded defenseman Jake McCabe and center Sam Lafferty to the Maple Leafs on Monday in their biggest trade yet in February.
In exchange, the Hawks received a 2025 first-round pick and a 2026 second-round pick as well as lower-ranked forward prospects Joey Anderson and Pavel Gogolev.
“In our efforts to acquire future assets and continue rebuilding, draft picks and prospects are the currency that is valuable to us right now,” said general manager Kyle Davidson. “We were able to secure some very high value assets in this trade. Obviously, it’s not easy to go from two good players… but you have to give something to get something, and we’re happy to have them back.
The fine print contains intricate details. The Hawks sent conditional fifth-round picks in 2024 and 2025 to Toronto, with the latter potentially becoming a third-round pick if McCabe doesn’t meet certain game-play thresholds next season.
The Hawks also retained 50% of McCabe’s $4 million salary cap reached through 2025, using one of their three salary retention slots. The Leafs’ 2025 first-round pick is top-10 protected and would slip through to 2026 in that case.
It’s already the Hawks’ fourth trade this month — they’ve also acquired Nikita Zaitsev from the Senators, traded AHL forwards to the Ducks and sent Jack Johnson to the Avalanche — but it’s by far the most important to date.
“As much as the two (Jake and Sam) helped us on the ice, they were even better off the ice, so it’s even harder to see them go,” Seth Jones said. “We kind of knew this day was coming (for) the past year and a half. But it sucks when it actually happens.
The Hawks now have six first-round picks over the next three years and eight second-round picks over the next four years after making three first-round picks and two second-round picks last season.
These choices form the basis of Davidson’s long-term plan. He said the Leafs’ picks dropping in 2025 and 2026 were actually the Hawks’ preference.
“We don’t want to pile too many draft picks in one place,” he said. “It’s good to distribute them. It also gives you the option to use them as currency elsewhere. This does not necessarily mean that you have to make this selection.
The first-round pick can be functionally considered the return of McCabe and the second-round pick functionally the return of Lafferty. Davidson had originally purchased the two players separately, but found the same optimal suitor for both, determining that it would be “easier to make a combo of them”.
Their departures further undermine the Hawks’ active roster — not that it’s of much concern to the front office — but come at high points in their respective career trajectories.
McCabe had a fantastic rebounding season. His plus-seven rating on a team with a minus-62 goal differential was remarkable. He also led Hawks defensemen with a five-to-five expected goals ratio, having developed strong chemistry with Jones in the first pairing.
He said recently, when trade rumors started swirling, that he would like to stay in Chicago – his adopted hometown – but would like to finally play in the playoffs (for the first time in eight years of career ) if an exchange occurred. Jason Dickinson said Monday that McCabe told the team he was “excited about it.”
Lafferty’s season took off around New Year’s Eve. He had 13 points in 23 games since then and proved even better defensively, prompting Hawks coach Luke Richardson to recently start pitting him on the front lines of opponents. His keen sense of penalty elimination, as evidenced by his league-leading four shorthanded goals, was another selling point.
He and McCabe fleshed out a Leafs squad that was already bolstered by the acquisition of Ryan O’Reilly a few weeks ago. The Leafs have been lured by the fact that McCabe — whose Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas told reporters on Monday he tried to sign in 2021 — and Lafferty are keeping affordable contracts through next season.
However, the Leafs had to pull contracts to make room, and from the roster of players they made available, Davidson picked Anderson and Gogolev.
Anderson, 24, has bounced between levels the past five seasons with the Devils and Leafs, producing high in the AHL but not so much in the NHL. The Hawks will try to unlock more in him, much like they did with Lafferty after acquiring him from the Penguins last season.
Gogolev, 23, has dominated the ECHL this season. He will report to Rockford.