Just two days after trading away Nikita Zadorov, the Colorado Avalanche have replaced him with a new top-six defenseman. The New York Islanders announced that they have traded Devon Toews to Colorado in exchange for second-round picks in 2021 and 2022. Toews is an unsigned restricted free agent.
Toews, 26, only broke into the NHL in 2018-19, but has made a great first impression. As a rookie, Toews recorded 18 points in 48 games, claimed a role on the power play, and held his own defensively in a third pair role. This past season, he showed even more growth. In 68 games, he improved to 28 points, made an even bigger impact on the power play, improved defensively, and along the way ended up earning a top-four role with over 20 minutes of ice time per game. A slick puck-mover with great hockey IQ, Toews is a well-rounded defenseman whose relative inexperience has kept him underrated compared to his actual ability. Even at the cost of two high picks, this seems like a shrewd deal by GM Joe Sakic.
Unfortunately for the Islanders, someone had to go and Toews fit the bill. Working with just under $9MM in cap space, the Islanders needed to re-sign core contributors Mathew Barzal and Ryan Pulock, as well as Toews. Trading away Toews, who had filed for salary arbitration, is now one less contract that the team needs to squeeze in. With their depth on defense – Pulock, Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Adam Pelech, Scott Mayfield, Thomas Hickey and prospects Sebastian Aho and Noah Dobson – Toews was expendable, even if he played a major role this season. In fact, it would not be a surprise to see another defenseman move as the Isles make an effort to re-sign Barzal and Pulock without damaging the roster too much.