The Blackhawks have reshaped their roster over the last week with some major acquisitions, including four-time All-Star defenseman Seth Jones and Vezina Trophy winner Marc-Andre Fleury (if he reports). And it continued on Wednesday when they added defenseman Jake McCabe on a four-year deal that carries a cap hit of $4 million.
McCabe, who had spent his first eight NHL season with the Buffalo Sabres, honed in on Chicago pretty early in the process. That's because his wife grew up in Downers Grove and he's spent the last five offseasons training in the Windy City.
"It's surreal I was able to come to work here today," said McCabe, who made the 20-minute drive from Lakeview to sign his contract at Fifth Third Arena. "I got chills walking into the building. I’m at a loss for words a little bit, I'm so excited."
The Blackhawks are getting a top-four defenseman in McCabe, who considers himself a two-way player and prides himself on shutting down other teams' top lines. He can be physical, play on the penalty kill and provide some leadership both on and off the ice after serving as an alternate captain in Buffalo.
"I do whatever it takes to win," McCabe said. "Block shots, be physical, be hard to play against, bring that leadership mentality in the dressing room and on the ice. That’s what I expect to bring to this team. I can't wait to meet the rest of the group. I've got some familiar names I already know very well, so it’s an awesome fit and I'm really super excited."
One of those players is Connor Murphy, who McCabe said he's known since he was 15 years old. The two went through the United State National Development Program together. Another is the newly-acquired Jones, who was also part of the program and played for Team USA on multiple occasions alongside McCabe.
It's one of the reasons why the McCabe is excited about joining the Blackhawks.
"I’ve been playing against him the last seven years in the league," McCabe said. "He’s about as elite a defenseman as they come. Bringing in a guy like that immediately helps your team get better. I’ve watched a few games over the last year, a lot of young kids who have come in and made an impact right away.
"Obviously, when you have Pat Kane and Jonathan Toews on your roster, you always have a chance to win every single night. Really just hoping to add everything I can for this group: a compete level every single night."
The one big question mark about McCabe is his knee injury. He appeared in only 13 games this season after sustaining injuries to his ACL, MCL and meniscus against the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 20 and was put on a six-to-eight-month timeline.
Not only does McCabe expect to be ready for training camp in September, but he has "zero concerns" that his reconstructed knee will prevent him from returning to the player he once was prior to the injury.
"My rehab’s gone very, very well," said McCabe, who's been skating for a month now. "The last month on the ice has gone really, really well, too. A lot of guys have had an ACL injury in hockey and have come back even stronger. I have no doubt my level will be even higher."