The first few days of NHL Free Agency had been quiet for the New York Islanders. That is until yesterday.
In a shocking move, the Islanders traded 26-year old d-man Devon Toews to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for two second-round picks in 2021-22.
Toews, who was a restriction free agent after this past season, was set to for arbitration with the organization. General manager Lou Lamoriello made it clear to reporters this was not a move he wanted to make but that the current situation played a part in the transaction along with the Isles’ cap issues while still needing to get Ryan Pulock and Mathew Barzal signed to new deals.
“It certainly played a role, I’ll be straight forward on it, unfortunately,” Lamoriello said. “Combination of the player going to arbitration with the unknown and being able to acquire assets, which we’ve used in previous trades. It’s all encompassing.”
No one had the thought that Toews wasn’t going to be a major part of the organization’s future moving forward, including me. Just a year and a half ago, Toews was projected to be an elite presence on the Islanders’ defense for the future. When he got the call up to the team in December of 2018, Toews showed he was worth all the hype. Immediately he added another dynamic to a blue line that was still in the early stages of becoming one of the best in the league and one in the midst of a historic season. His strong play followed into this past year his first full season in the NHL where he notched 28 points in 68 games and a postseason where he tied for most points by an Isles defenseman.
Toews did slow down towards the tail end of the Islanders’ run to the Eastern Conference Finals. However. the B.C. native more than established himself as a sturdy top-four d-man.
Obviously that wasn’t enough. And as much as Toews being the sacrificial lamb was something no one envisioned, and Lamoriello making it clear last week his intentions were to try and keep this current core together, he basically had his hands tied. There are too many factors just not in the Islanders’ favor right now beyond the cap.
The Islanders need to do everything in their power to get Barzal signed. We’ve heard — and I was told this again yesterday as well — that Barzal could be looking for $10 million in a possible new deal. They also needed to recoup assets after basically sending most of them away at the deadline in the deals for Andy Greene and J.G. Pageau. The Marc Staal deal by the rival Rangers set the tone of the market when it came to dealing picks. And up until yesterday that market looked like it was going to be extremely difficult to navigate for the Islanders.
Now, they have something they can work with and it can possibly lead to them being able to trade a bigger contract out like Johnny Boychuk, which has been rumored now the past few days.
Something to also be taken into consideration with Toews being dealt is the talented prospect pool on defense the Islanders have right now and how much head coach Barry Trotz likes Nick Leddy and his game. Besides Dobson, they have Sebastian Aho, Samuel Bolduc, Bode Wilde, Parker Wotherspoon, Grant Hutton and Mitch Vande Sompel (those two signed new deals yesterday and this morning); a few of those names could be with the big club soon too. Trotz called Leddy the Islanders’ best player in the postseason.
“We did give up a good player to acquire assets,” Lamoriello said. “It takes two to make any transaction. Devon was the individual involved — that’s the best way to put it. Not that he was a player targeted (by us to trade).”
Toews will do great things in Colorado. Especially, being a part of an already stacked team featuring Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Cale Makar, Sam Girard and Bowan Byram.
On the flip side, the time has come for Noah Dobson. The organization knows it and they have put their full faith in him as the one to replace Toews. “Noah Dobson, we feel, is certainly ready to take the next step so we’ll have to just wait and see,” said Lamoriello.
So, yeah, trading Toews came at a price. But a lot of aspects probably went into the decision.
It sucks to see him go but the Islanders were really stuck with no choice.