Yesterday, the New York Islanders dealt Devon Toews to the Colorado Avalanche, in exchange for two second-round picks.
While we knew the Islanders would need to make some difficult decisions based on their cap crunch, few people would have guessed that Toews would be the player getting moved. In just his first full NHL season, he was averaging more than 20 minutes per game and was on pace for about 34 points. He may have been 26 years old but compared to the majority of New York’s key players, he was relatively young and certainly could’ve been around for a long time.
Now, Toews wasn’t without his faults. He had a few tough stretches where he was prone to bad mistakes and didn’t really take the step many expected him to take this season. However, based on his lack of experience at this point, those weren’t necessarily traits that will stick with him, especially considering how well he’s played at other points of his short NHL career. As far as I’m concerned, while Toews wasn’t untouchable, many players should have been moved first.
The likely scenario for the defense group as it stands now would be Nick Leddy taking on a larger role and Noah Dobson sliding up to the third pairing to play with Johnny Boychuk (if Boychuk isn't dealt as well). However, with Leddy already 29 years old and just two years remaining on his deal, there’s a great chance that he’s not around long-term. Essentially, the Islanders moved one of their best offensive defensemen but don’t necessarily have an immediate replacement for him.
Toews looked to be part of a group with the likes of Mathew Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier, Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock, who seemed destined to be around for a long time. The Islanders do have some quality defense prospects, like Samuel Bolduc, Robin Salo and Bode Wilde, but all will take time to develop. When Leddy's contract expires in two years, New York will likely have quite the hole on the left side of their defense group.
While New York’s defense is fine right now, I question what long-term impact this move will have on the team. Trading Toews gives New York a bit of breathing room and draft capital but they’ve lost a player who likely could’ve been part of the top-four group for a long time to come. Especially considering at least one, if not both of those picks will likely be attached to a bad contract in order to clear more cap space, it’s too bad to see this move made as a result of too many poor cap decisions, even if the majority of them weren't made by Lou Lamoriello.
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Here’s today’s poll question (results and discussion will be posted in a future article):
Do you expect that at least one the picks acquired in the trade will be packaged with a bad contract to clear cap space?