Perhaps it wasn’t the overly splashy offseason that many had forecasted for the Colorado Avalanche, but the Western Conference contenders certainly took advantage of their position as an elite unit not yet feeling the relentless squeeze of the salary cap.
Instead of using their cap space on a big-name free-agent acquisition like Taylor Hall, the Avalanche’s two main transactions involved trades with teams in disadvantageous positions. First the Avalanche traded Nikita Zadorov to the rebuilding Chicago Blackhawks for a bona fide top six winger in Brandon Saad. Then they dealt a pair of second-round picks to the cap-strapped New York Islanders for a clear upgrade on Zadorov in Devon Toews.
On Tuesday, they locked up that impressive new blue liner.
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) October 27, 2020
Toews will earn $4.1 million per season on a back-loaded four-year contract. He was scheduled for an arbitration meeting with his new club on Oct. 31.
The contract will make Toews the fourth-highest earning defender on the Avalanche behind Erik Johnson, Samuel Girard, and Ian Cole. The expectation should be that Cale Makar leapfrogs the entire cohort before the start of next season out of entry level on an Avalanche team investing deeply in quality defenders.
Toews, 26, is only two full seasons into his NHL career after three full years in the minors, but he immediately excelled in his five-on-five duties under Barry Trotz in the Islanders’ highly-organized system. He is a quality transition defender that provides strong possession numbers and decent offensive upside in even-strength scenarios. The Avs aren’t losing any value in not having space for him to work on the power play.
General manager Joe Sakic and the Avalanche seem to have concluded their offseason work with the multi-year agreement with Toews — unless there is a move to help improve the goaltending position. While it’s clear they improved both their forward group and back end, there is some risk tied to rolling out the same tandem of Philip Grubauer and Pavel Francouz next season.
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