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Devon Toews trade analysis: Trader Joe strikes again



Joe Sakic
Illustration by Tony Caya

Just when we all thought we could rest for 10 minutes, Joe Sakic went and made another pretty sizable trade again. Two days after dealing for Brandon Saad and signing some of his own, Sakic just now dealt two second-round picks (one in 2021, one in 2022) to the New York Islanders for defenseman Devon Toews.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen the Islanders play much in the last couple of years, so I’m going on what others who have seen him play a lot are saying about Toews and…the trade sounds like a steal, at least for now. Trade Joe strikes again.

The Islanders almost certainly wouldn’t have wanted to part with a top-four defenseman who plays regular minutes and can score some, but they are facing a tough salary-cap crunch and needed to move him to be able to sign others.

Here’s what one media person who has seen Toews play an awful lot said of him:

“Toews is better than Zadorov, much more consistent. Can play on second PP, heavy shot. This is a salary dump because Lou has to sign Pulock, and he figures Noah Dobson can play in his top 6 now I guess.”

Another big Islander fan who watches every single game:

“Offensive-minded defenseman who has some serious wheels. Really good first pass and can QB a pp (isles pp sucks w/ or w/o him). Can get outmuscled in corners but is usually positionally sound. Great vision and on-ice awareness. As an Isles fan, disappointed in this return as I figured he would be the D piece used if we were going to get a guy like Laine to Long Island.”

The Avs wanted more of a sure thing on defense than having to worry about Conor Timmins or Bo Byram slotting into a regular top-6 role for this coming season. While Timmins made progress as a player this past season, he was hurt again in Game 6 of the second round (he’s said to be much better now) and you don’t want to pin all your hopes on him just yet probably. Byram probably won’t be ready for another year.

Toews (no relation to Jonathan) averaged 20 minutes, 30 seconds a game for the Islanders in the regular season, and another 20:31 a night for an Isles team that made the Eastern Conference finals.

Here’s what Lou Lamoriello, Islanders GM, had to say about why he dealt Toews:

“(A cap crunch) certainly played a role. I’ll be straightforward on it, unfortunately,” Lamoriello told NYI Hockey Now and other New York media. “(Plus) a combination of a player going to arbitration with an unknown….Noah Dobson, we feel, is ready to take the next step.”

Devon Toews, just 26, is big, at 6-1, 191. He is not considered an overly physical defenseman, however, and the issue of “toughness” will still be a question mark around the Avs’ defense probably. But otherwise, Sakic now has assembled one bear of a top-6 when it comes to skaters and puck movers. Ian Cole is your one older, slower veteran guy, but he’s still got some good stuff left in the tank I think.

Sakic already has done one Zoom call on the day, so here’s what he said in the team’s prepared release:

“Devon is a smart, two-way, puck-moving defenseman who plays 20-plus minutes a night. He is a durable defender who is excellent in transition and we are excited to add him to our blueline.”

About Devon Toews’ contract: he’s a restricted free agent who had just a $700,000 cap hit last year, and he had arbitration rights. I would bet that he’ll get a new deal at something like Ryan Graves just got, something in the $3 million per range. I would assume the Avs will have a new deal to announce with Toews at some point soon, if they don’t already.

I do worry a bit about the Avs’ cap situation for next year, assuming Toews signs a multi-year deal at something like what Graves is making, or more. I kind of wonder if the Avs might have to buy out a guy like Erik Johnson next year, at his $6 million hit, to fit everybody in. Either that, or EJ is going to have to waive his expansion no-move clause and let the Avs expose him to the Seattle Kraken. But let’s worry about next year, next year I guess.

The Avs, according to PuckPedia, have about $6.7 million of cap room right now. A Toews signing at, say, a $3 million cap hit, a Tyson Jost signing at something like $1-$1.5 million and the Avs still have a little money left for emergencies.

I like the move a lot because you just don’t find too many young D-men available who have a proven record of being able to play 20 minutes a night at the NHL level. This isn’t just a prospect who hasn’t played much yet (Timmins, Byram). It’s a guy who played 20 minutes a night for a Barry Trotz team that just went to the conference finals.

That’s a valuable commodity, and now that valuable commodity belongs to the Colorado Avalanche hockey club.

Here’s a Devon Toews sizzle reel:

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