Three-year contract for Graves; Devon Toews acquired from Isles
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Ryan Graves has come a long way since his time in the New York Rangers organization.
Buried in the American Hockey League with the Hartford Wolf Pack for parts of three seasons before what was considered a minor trade to the Avalanche on Feb. 26, 2018 (for Chris Bigras), Graves was given more of an opportunity with Colorado, partly because of injuries, and he’s made the most of it.
A restricted free agent who had filed for arbitration, Graves on Monday signed a three-year, $9.5 million contract with a $3.116,667 salary cap charge, according to PuckPedia.com.
Graves, 25, will make $2.5 million in 2020-21, $3 million in the second year and $4 million in the third year.
The 6-feet-5, 220-pound defenseman spent most of the 2019-20 season on the top pair with Cale Makar, who won the Calder Trophy as NHL Rookie of the Year, and set career highs for games (69), goals (nine), assists (17) and points (26). He also led the league with a plus-40 plus/minus rating.
Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic said during a Zoom call Monday that a contract agreement was reached Sunday night. He said Graves will help fill the physical void created when Nikita Zadorov was traded Sunday to the Chicago Blackhawks in the multi-player deal for forward Brandon Saad.
“We feel Ryan, he’s a big guy, he’s a defender,” Sakic said. “We feel with him, Erik Johnson, Ian Cole, they give us a physical presence. I’m not sure if you guys noticed, but Cale Makar, he can play a physical style too. I mean, you don’t want him banging out there, but he’s a strong kid, he’s not going to shy away, so we feel that our defense is going to be fine.”
Graves had a team-leading 150 blocked shots (sixth in the NHL), was second to Zadorov’s 175 hits on the Avalanche with 112 and averaged 18:56 in ice time. He led the team in penalty killing minutes with 193:11.
Graves had three points (one goal, two assists) in 15 postseason games, was a plus-9 and had 37 blocked shots and 29 hits.
Graves’ signing gives the Avalanche five returning regulars under contract, with Makar, Johnson, Cole and Samuel Girard. They acquired defenseman Devon Toews, a restricted free agent, later Monday from the New York Islanders for second-round picks in the 2021 and 2022 NHL drafts.
The 6-1, 196-pound Toews, 26, appeared in all 68 games for the Islanders during his first full NHL season in 2019-20, collecting 28 points (six goals, 22 assists). He had 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in 22 postseason games.
"Devon is a smart, two-way, puck-moving defenseman who plays 20-plus minutes a night," Sakic said in a release. "He is a durable defender who is excellent in transition and we are excited to add him to our blue line."
The Islanders’ fourth-round pick (No. 108) in 2014, Toews has 46 points (11 goals, 35 assists) in 116 NHL games with 15 points (three goals, 12 assists) in 30 playoff games.
Sakic said he’s trying to sign forward Tyson Jost, a restricted free agent, to a two-year contract and that he began contract talks with captain Gabriel Landeskog’s agent during the playoffs in the Edmonton bubble. Landeskog is entering the final year of his contract.
“We’d like to have something done during the year, but if it has to go through the year we have a pretty good relationship with Gabe and we’ll figure something out by next year,” Sakic said.
Saad spoke before Sakic on a Zoom call and said he’s excited about joining the Avalanche.
Saad, 27, is a two-time Stanley Cup champion who helped the Blackhawks win in 2012-13 and 2014-15. He had 33 points (21 goals, 12 assists) in 58 games this past season with five points (two goals, three assists) in nine postseason games.
Saad has one year left on a six-year, $36 million contract; Chicago will retain $1 million of the $6 million that remains.
A five-time 20-goal scorer, Saad had a career-high 31 goals and 53 points in 2015-16 with the Columbus Blue Jackets,
This is the second time the Blackhawks have traded Saad. They sent him to Columbus in 2015 and reacquired him in June 2017.
“Having gone through it before, it kind of makes it easier the second time around, especially when I’m going to a team that’s going to compete for a championship every year,” Saad said Monday.
“Coming to Denver, you see how good the team is. Playing against them, just to be a part of that group I couldn’t be more excited to get things going here. I know it’s a little bit weird of an offseason, but I couldn’t be more excited to join a great group."
Saad said he’d already been contacted by Nathan MacKinnon, Landeskog and Johnson.
“He’s a really good two-way player,” Sakic said Monday. “He goes to the net, he gets his goals. We have a lot of great shooters, perimeter shooters, but he’ll be getting to the front of the net, getting those dirty goals. We just think he’s a versatile player, he can play anywhere in the lineup and we think he’s going to be a great addition.”
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