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What Makes Jake McCabe So Valuable for the Maple Leafs?

The Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Jake McCabe has grown since he’s come to the team. What makes him such a good defender?

Jake McCabe has emerged as a crucial asset for the Toronto Maple Leafs, earning high praise from teammates and coaches for his many contributions. Ryan Reaves encapsulated McCabe’s value, describing him as his favorite defenseman in the league due to his versatility:

As Reaves noted, “He does a little bit of everything. He’s got really good poise with the puck and breaks out well. He plays so physically. Blocks shots. He adds a little offense, too. He’s kind of like a unicorn in the league — just a guy who does everything really well.”

Related: What Makes Craig Berube’s Formula a Winner in Toronto

McCabe Handles the Toughest Matchups for Maple Leafs

One of the most significant factors contributing to McCabe’s value is his ability to handle tough matchups, especially in high-pressure situations like the playoffs. In 2023, McCabe experienced the harsh reality of playoff hockey, finishing with a minus-7 rating. However, he used this experience to fuel his improvement. Between seasons, he spoke with then-Maple Leaf’s head coach Sheldon Keefe and vowed to be better prepared for the intensity of postseason play. In 2024, his performance reflected this commitment, finishing even in a plus-minus rating and demonstrating his growth and adaptability.

Jake McCabe Maple Leafs NHL playoffs

As McCabe’s former head coach, Keefe highlighted McCabe’s growing confidence and leadership. He noted, “He really feels like a big part of our group now, which he certainly is. And with that, his leadership has really stepped up, and his overall confidence has improved.” McCabe’s enhanced role as a leader has been pivotal for the team’s dynamic, helping to anchor the defense and mentor younger players.

McCabe Is on a Great, Team-Friendly Contract

Additionally, McCabe’s economic value to the team is huge. With the Chicago Blackhawks retaining 50 percent of his salary, McCabe will carry a cap hit of just $2 million for the Maple Leafs in the 2024-25 season. This cap-friendly contract is particularly advantageous given McCabe’s on-ice contributions. The 30-year-old defenseman is coming off a career-best season with eight goals, 28 points, and a plus-20 rating, proving that he is maintaining his performance and improving with age and increased responsibility.

As the offseason approaches, one consideration for the Maple Leafs’ management is whether to extend McCabe when that option becomes available on July 1. It would seem like a no-brainer to do so. Given his integral role and continued improvement, extending McCabe could be a strategic move to solidify the Leafs’ defense for the future.

Related: How Could Life Change for the Maple Leafs Core 5 After Berube?

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. afp1961

    May 20, 2024 at 5:44 pm

    Jim – We are aligned. I believe McCabe is due for a raise and longer term deal. Remember he is on $4M now (combined with Chicago retention) so he will be looking for $4.5M+. It will be fundamental to assess and understand where the new regime sees Mccabe in the pecking order. Although he formed a great duo with Benoit, McCabe has top four capabilities (Benoit does not), and if partnered with say a Pesce, Skeji, Tanev type that is quite plausable. Then he would be in line and deserving of a contract hike. If by some odd chance the leafs see McCabe however as a bottom pairing D man (unlikely) than his salary would have to be commensurate with that role.

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