The Leafs McCabe/Lafferty acquisitions: a move for now and for the future

Photo credit:Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
1 year ago
Kyle Dubas has been putting in his work to earn that contract extension. I’m not really sure how anyone can deny the effort he’s put into upgrading a team that closed out last night already sitting fourth in the league. Now there’s a new top four defenseman, and a new depth forward, and the Leafs won’t pay a single asset on this deal until 2025. That gives Toronto plenty of time to figure out their declining number of draft picks, and that should be far from the concern today anyway.
That’s a pretty big splash of cold water and what makes the water even colder is that the next round would be against Boston or whatever team is playing so lights out they were able to knock off Boston in the first round. That’s pretty scary. So that’s why it doesn’t hurt to look at how this deal benefits the Leafs tomorrow as well as today.
The 50% salary retention on Jake McCabe is huge and can’t be overstated. Not only does he fit into the Leafs cap this year, but they’ve picked up a top four defenseman for next season who will only cost them $2M. That’s a steal. It’s also worth noting that Lafferty’s $1.15M cap hit is something the Leafs will be able to enjoy next season as well and largely on the strength of trade deadline hype he’s a steal in the Leafs bottom six for next season as well.
The Leafs presently sit with seven defensemen under contract for next year with a cap hit under $20M. Assuming Holl is the odd man out, the Leafs can essentially run it back and be quite happy with it. The Leafs will have some flexibility if they want it. They will have expiring UFAs in both Brodie and McCabe next year on movable contracts. They’ll have Rasmus Sandin, who will be on an expiring RFA deal as well that could be someone the Leafs are looking to move on from if they are happy enough with the rest of their defensive depth and believe Topi Niemela isn’t that far off.
As for Lafferty, it seems a matter of taking your pick of who he will be viewed as the replacement for. Kerfoot, Engvall, and Kampf are all pending UFAs on the way out, and I guess to some extent you can also lump Noel Acciari into that category as well, but we’ll double back around to him in a minute. Lafferty is very much a suitable replacement for any of Kerfoot, Kampf, or Acciari and he’ll come in a little than what they were costing the Leafs (or a lot cheaper in Kerfoot’s case). The Leafs have taken care of business better than they probably could have in free agency, and have managed to avoid contract entanglements that would potentially overlap new contracts for Auston Matthews and William Nylander. The Leafs are setting themselves up to work with a blank canvas in 2024-25.
The number of affordable contracts coupled with existing low cost roster options like Pontus Holmberg, Bobby McMann, Nick Robertson (if healthy and not traded), and Matthew Knies (if not traded) means the Leafs can potentially handle some of their more interesting in house free agent options that would be important to bring back. Re-signing Ilya Samsonov and Michael Bunting gets easier with each additional move by Kyle Dubas, and it certainly doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility that the Leafs could put forth a solid offer to Ryan O’Reilly as well to give him a chance to settle in a bit more. Even players like Noel Acciari and Pierre Engvall could be in play for returns as the Leafs cap situation becomes a lot less murky.
It’s hard not to appreciate how this move has set up for the Leafs in 2023-24 as well given them their best shot at success in the playoffs.
Join us on March 3rd for the Daily Faceoff Live: Trade Deadline edition as Frank Seravalli and the panel break down all of the latest rumours, news, and rumblings from around the NHL. The show will be live on YouTubeFacebook, and Twitter from 12 PM – 4 PM ET to keep you up to date on all things trade deadline no matter where you’re watching from.

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