Jake McCabe’s seven-year career with the Buffalo Sabres is over.
The defenseman this afternoon agreed to terms with the Chicago Blackhawks on a four-year, $16 million contract in free agency.
McCabe makes his offseason home in suburban Chicago.
General manager Kevyn Adams said on Saturday the Sabres were still interested in re-signing McCabe, 27, but he expected him to hit the open market.
Update: On a virtual news conference, McCabe said joining Chicago is “a dream come true.”
“I’ve been kind of secretly hoping this was going to come to fruition for a long time,” he said. “This place has kind of been home to me for a long time.”
McCabe said his wife, Gaby, is from Downers Grove, Illinois. They live about 20 minutes away in Lake View.
When he walked into the team’s practice facility today, Fifth Third Rink, he said he felt “chills.”
“It really just holds a special spot for me and my family,” he said of the Chicago area.
McCabe’s departure will hurt the Sabres, whose defense depth has been whittled down in the past week. They also lost Will Borgen in the NHL Expansion Draft and traded Rasmus Ristolainen.
In McCabe, the Sabres possessed a gritty, versatile presence ex-teammate Ryan O’Reilly once called the team’s “Swiss Army Knife.”
McCabe compiled 18 goals, 77 points and 203 penalty minutes in 353 career games for the Sabres.
A season-ending knee injury McCabe suffered Feb. 20 and a bout with COVID-19 limited him to only 13 games last season.
McCabe said he started skating again a month ago.
The Sabres drafted McCabe in the second round in 2012, 44th overall.
Update: The Sabres this afternoon signed forward Vinnie Hinostroza to a one-year, $1.05 million contract, the team announced.
Hinostroza, 27, spent last season with the Florida Panthers and Chicago Blackhawks, compiling four goals and 12 points in 26 games.