I really don’t try to “clickbait” too much because, you know, I have some standards and quaint old journalistic notions that you shouldn’t do that (no jokes please). But, hell, it’s July 30 and we’re still sitting around waiting to see what happens with Nazem Kadri and this is a website devoted to All Things Avalanche. And, a reader put forth a proposal to me the other day that, the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. It involves Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks icon, coming to the Colorado Avalanche.
First off, I’ve heard absolutely nothing that this could or will happen. But second, Toews doesn’t seem too thrilled with what’s been going on in Chicago the last few months, roster-wise. The team has traded some really good young players, such as Alex DeBrincat, Brandon Hagel and Kirby Dach, in moves that were heavily criticized for not getting enough back. He told Mark Lazerus of The Athletic, “At the end of the day, we’re talking about a five-plus-year process, according to Kyle (Davidson, GM). So that part of it doesn’t sound appealing to me at all. I can’t speak for Kaner, but I definitely feel that the amount of turnover our team has gone through every single year these last three or four years, that’s where it gets really, really draining. And exhausting.”
In his talk with Lazerus, Toews also said how he finally feels great again physically, and can’t wait to get the next season going, to prove to people he’s got a lot left in the tank.
So, here you have a player who doesn’t sound like he wants to be part of any rebuilding process, who doesn’t seem to be having any talks whatsoever about signing an extension with the Blackhawks, who has one year left on his contract, at a $10.5 million cap hit, who can be UFA after this coming season.
Sounds like a guy who, if I’m Avalanche GM Chris MacFarland anyway, I might be interested in as a possible replacement for Kadri – who remains unsigned.
One key thing: Toews has a full no-move, no-trade clause. Chicago cannot trade him without his consent, to anywhere. But, hmm, wonder if Toews might waive that clause to come to the defending Stanley Cup champions who might – might – have an opening at second-line center?
But Dater, what about that $10.5 million cap hit? Well, Chicago could retain half of it, or enough of it anyway, in order for the Avalanche to fit him in. The Avalanche could also trade a player or two back to Chicago to create more space to allow a Toews to come here. Then, Toews gets to come to a winner who wants him, would play a meaningful role here and also get to play with his brother, Devon.
(That last one is a joke).
Some other numbers on Toews: He’s 34 years old. He had 37 points (12 goals) in 71 games last season. He missed the entire 2020-21 season because of an illness. He’s not the player he once was. But I can definitely see him having a fine year again on a good team. He remains an ace faceoff man, and he’s a true competitor with great leadership skills.
Would his presence be almost too much, though, on a team that just won a Cup and has all the leadership pieces in place? I doubt it. I bet Toews would just come in and defer to Gabe Landeskog and just be one of the boys.
Toews maintained his love for Chicago and the fans, and it would be very tough for him to move I’m sure. But this much we know about the Blackhawks of 2022-23: they have a good chance at being the worst team in the league, in my opinion anyway. They are a team almost starting from scratch again in some ways. What’s crazy is the Blackhawks moved out some of their best young players who would have made a rebuild easier, and kept the older, expensive guys like Toews and Patrick Kane. Yeah, they both have no-trade deals and contracts that are tough to move. But surely there would have been some team to take them on – assuming they’d waive the NMC.
Who would go to the Blackhawks in return? Well, first off, don’t expect it would be Sam Girard. I wrote a couple weeks ago or so that, based on my latest understanding of things, he is not being offered around by the Avalanche to “clear cap space” for Kadri or anyone else. J.T. Compher? Yeah, I could see it. He’s an Illinois native who grew up a big Blackhawks fan, with one year left on his deal before he goes UFA. His $3.5 million cap space would, in fact, open up enough room for a Jonathan Toews (assuming Chicago eats a good portion of his salary).
I’m sure Blackhawks fans would be outraged if that’s all they got for a franchise icon. But they don’t have a lot of leverage here. He’s a 34-year-old player who has seen better days, with a monster cap hit, who can go anywhere he wants after this coming season.
Here’s what I think the more likely scenario will be with Toews: He’s going to be a hot commodity at the NHL trade deadline. Assuming the Blackhawks are nowhere near the playoffs, and with teams such as the Avalanche likely have a lot more accrued cap space by then, a deadline deal is the more realistic scenario.
But if the Avalanche lose Kadri soon, do they want to just try and tread water at his position all season with other solutions (Mikko Rantanen as a 2C, or Alex Newhook)? I don’t think I like the idea of Rantanen as a 2C. He’s a big winger who can play up and down the wall and do heavy damage. He’s been a winger most of his entire life. Newhook could well become a great 2C. But it feels like it would be a little too rushed in this case.
Jonathan Toews, as a replacement for Kadri in the short-term? I like the sound of that.
What about you, Avalanche fan?