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Why The Devon Toews Extension May Age Better Than You Think



Avalanche Toews

The aging curve in the NHL is a very real thing, and the Colorado Avalanche are well aware of it.

While negotiations were ongoing during training camp, Elliotte Friedman repeatedly stated that the Avalanche did not want to go longer than five years on a Devon Toews extension. They’re an organization heavily invested in analytics, so this is hardly a surprise. Going longer than five years on a defenseman who is about to turn 30 is not something the analytics would agree with.

But when the deal is this good, it’s kind of hard to say no.

On Friday, Toews signed a 7 year, $50.75 million extension that all but guarantees he will end his career in Colorado. I have yet to find anyone really complain about the extension, which probably means it’s a good one, but any long-term extension on a player entering their 30’s comes with risk.

Is there less risk when it comes to Toews, though?

The Numbers

We don’t really need to spend too much time on the numbers, because everyone knows how good they are. Toews is elite at both ends of the ice, and on the majority of other teams in the league, he’d be a #1 defenseman. He just so happens to play in Colorado, where some guy named Cale Makar exists.

And before people call Toews a product of Makar, know that his numbers before coming to Colorado were pretty darn good too.

So yes, the numbers back up that Toews is very, very good, and I don’t see a stick-breakups-per-60 stat, which he would almost certainly lead the NHL in.

The Actual Contract

Here are the full details of the contract from our friends over at PuckPedia.

When I heard the initial terms of the deal, I thought it was a massive win. Then I saw the entire contract, including the clauses, and it’s even better for the Avalanche.

For the first two years of the contract, there will be a no-move clause. That’s okay, and had to be expected. There’s no chance the Avalanche would have looked to move Toews right in their window anyway, so you give that to him. What I don’t understand is how they got away with giving him only a modified no-trade clause the rest of the deal. That’s some terrific negotiating by Chris MacFarland and company.

I would still say it’s unlikely Toews gets moved before this deal is up, but this gives the organization some wiggle room to get out of it if things really go downhill. The modified no-trade clause doesn’t even cut off half the league, and that’s remarkable.

This is a dynamite contract all around from an Avalanche perspective.

The Aging Concern

The Avalanche, like most teams in the league, are concerned about players over the age of 30 falling off a cliff when you’ve got them signed long-term.

It’s an understandable concern. After all, they were very reluctant going 7 years with Gabriel Landeskog at the time, and he was their Captain and heart and soul. That concern might have been warranted, because of how injuries may impact the rest of Landeskog’s career, but they did get a Stanley Cup out of the deal.

Should there be concern in regards to how Toews will age? A little bit, but not nearly as much as your average 30 year old defenseman. Here’s why.

As of the publishing of this article, Toews has only played in 316 NHL games. That’s a small number for someone his age. Heck, Sam Girard is just 25, and he’s already at 417 career games in the NHL. Toews did play 130 AHL games spread out over three seasons, but to date, he’s got far less wear and tear than your standard 29 year old defenseman. When you consider he went the NCAA route, with its shorter schedule, it starts to look even better.

The next area to look at would be his style. He’s not some physical, smash mouth  defenseman. He’s a very cerebral player who relies on his skating and his intelligence all over the ice. I’m sure as he gets older, his skating will naturally start to deteriorate, but his hockey IQ shouldn’t. And since he’s already a top-tier skater, he’d still be in okay shape even if he lost a step or two.

I could very easily see Toews aging in the NHL like a Ryan Suter. At 38, Suter isn’t the defenseman he used to be by any means, but he’s still playing a relatively large role in Dallas. While Suter was always a skilled player, his greatest asset was his brain. That doesn’t go away as you get older, so I suspect Toews will age pretty gracefully.

Lack of wear and tear and his play style lead me to believe Toews can still be a very, very good defenseman up until he’s around 34 years old, and that’s probably what the Avalanche are banking on anyway. Those are the years they’re planning on being in the running for the Stanley Cup, so that’s all they’re really worried about.

Verdict – A

It’s a great deal, and when you consider the final five years of the contract don’t even include a full no-trade clause, it gets even better.

I had assumed, with the cap going up, that any Toews cap hit was going to start with an 8 on it. I was way off. On the open market, I really do believe he could have approached the $9 million per-year range, but we’ll never know that now.

The culture of this organization also played a huge role in this deal as well. When you build a strong culture, win some games, and treat your players right, they’ll want to stick around, and because of that, they’re far more likely to leave some money on the table.

That’s what Toews did here. Credit to the Avalanche organization, and credit to Chris MacFarland, who capped off a pretty impressive four month run with this extension.

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