Devon Toews came to the Colorado Avalanche, likely in the same way he will leave. He left the Islanders for Colorado not because they didn't want him around but because New York couldn't afford to keep him. Toews' value has drastically improved after winning a Stanley Cup and partnering with young phenom Cale Makar for the last three seasons. Combine that with a market dishing out eight-year, eight-million-dollar contracts to Jake Sanderson, and you have a dilemma.
Do the Avalanche keep Toewser for one more year and run at the cup, or think long-term and get while the getting is good and trade him for center depth? Either way, this will likely be Toews' last season for the Avalanche.
Benefits of keeping Toews
As I mentioned in the header, the Avalanche are a much better team when Devon Toews is on the roster. He is among the league's most well-rounded defenders. He's got a shot and enough offensive awareness to jump into the rush and contribute by scoring and setting up his teammates. He can shut down some of the league's best forwards and has been excellent in transition and creatively leaving the defensive zone. His contribution to Colorado's cup run is almost impossible to quantify, but I'll say he had 15 points in 20 GP in the playoffs.
I'd argue that Colorado's defensive performances during the cup run were the most impressive but least acknowledged component of their cup run. The video above alone can paint a picture of elite two-way defending and show why the Toews/Makar pairing is the best in the NHL.
The guy is just flat-out dangerous at all times. It's safe to say that Toewser is atop the NHL defenseman ladder along with his D partner, which means he's earned a fair figure on the open market. To me, he could easily net 10M+ on the open market, and with that, the only way Toews is a Colorado Avalanche in the 2024-25 season is if he takes a substantial pay cut or the Avs clear their cap by trading elsewhere.
Devon Toews is going to be a billionaire when this contract is up.— Evan Rawal (@evanrawal) January 21, 2022
If the goal every year is to win the Stanley Cup, you keep Toews letting him get his money next season, hoping that you do, in fact, hoist. Trading him would be way riskier than keeping him if that's the goal.
Why on earth would you trade Devon Toews?
Now that I've covered not trading Devon Toews let's discuss the upside of doing so. I'll examine the team to assess Colorado's roster needs. It's no secret that in the absence of Gabe Landeskog, the Avalanche need another net front centerman. Their D core is still intact and likely one of the league's best. Goaltending doesn't seem an issue, as Alexandar Georgiev has fit in as a starter in Colorado.
It's almost impossible to replicate the juggernaut that was Colorado's 2021-22 roster, but management should probably try. That team had unmatched center/scoring depth that contributed alongside an elite defense that limited opposing teams. Goaltending was decent and more than enough to win games in the playoffs.
On this day, one year ago: the legend of Nazem Kadri grows pic.twitter.com/pLK00r3Mvs— Mile High Hockey (@MileHighHockey) June 23, 2023
Contrast that to this season's roster, and the Avalanche have newly acquired and relatively uncertain scoring depth in Ryan Johansen and Jonathan Drouin. If Johansen can even scratch the surface of what Nazem Kadri was able to accomplish, and if this move awakes Drouin, then we can end this conversation now. If Christmas rolls around and it's uber apparent that the Avalanche are top-heavy in their forward group and still don't have the scoring help to return to contention, Joe Sakic and Chris MacFarland may have some work to do. That or they will have to admit that this isn't the year. Still, if that becomes the resignation, why wouldn't you trade someone who will garner an impactful return before the sun sets on his Avalanche tenure and look toward the future? If you look at it like an investment, Avs bought low and can sell high. You don’t watch your asset gain value and then just let it go up for auction.
Moreover, if the Avalanche still haven't replaced Nazem Kadri, what makes us feel comfortable thinking they can replace Devon Toews? Devon could be moved to sure up 2C, and then they'd just have to replace one world-class defender. I know that's still a tough ask.
Can the Avalanche afford to trade Toews?
If the Avalanche are to pull the trigger on exchanging Devon, they better be sure they have enough on the back end to maintain their vaunted reputation. I've seen enough from Bo to think he can serve as Makar's partner; honestly, that seems to be the long-term mindset for Avalanche management. Girard and Manson are a solid pair when Manson is healthy, so that will play into this decision, and I think 5-7 D can come from within the system or be acquired affordably.
The question isn't if they can maintain defensive supremacy but if they have any pieces to trade for a true 2C outside of Toews. Many fans will say that Colorado can sell Girard instead, but he won't return a 2C without additional trade pieces. Then we begin talking about trading a pick and a roster player under a team-friendly contract. My dad would call that "cutting off your nose to spite your face." Any roster player outside of the untouchables won't return a 2C alone. They have to roll with what they've got or swap their expiring contracts for solid returns.
When should the Avs trade Toews if they do?
I feel like the Avalanche have options here. If Toews is traded, it's most likely to a team that will also want him to ink a contract immediately upon arrival. That said, slightly before the trade deadline would be the best move for him so that those negotiations can occur. The closer you get to the deadline, the harder this part of the deal will be. Then again, teams are known to offer a surplus at the deadline due to competing with other deal makers.
The other move might be to do so as early as Christmas. This idea revolves around getting whoever you are trading for more involved and familiar with the process long before the playoffs. It also gives some time to see if the Ryan Johansen and Jonathan Drouin experiment cashes in.
Maybe somewhere between these two options. That way, you give Johansen and Drouin a fair crack at it. If the Avalanche are still in win-now mode, awesome, I'm here for it. They will need surprising performances from the new guys for that. They have nurtured those breakout seasons plenty of times before. Just look at Burky and Nichushkin.
Let me know what you all think in the comments!