Trade: Islanders send Devon Toews to Avalanche for draft picks

Devon Toews trade
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The Colorado Avalanche keep putting their salary cap space to good use.

On Monday afternoon they acquired restricted free agent defenseman Devon Toews from the New York Islanders in exchange for two second-round draft picks (2021 and 2022).

The Avalanche now have to re-sign Toews to a new deal.

That should not be an issue given that they still have more than $7 million in salary cap space at their disposal.

Along with acquiring Toews, the Avalanche also re-signed Ryan Graves to a three-year deal on Monday. Tyson Jost also remains unsigned as a restricted free agent.

“Devon is a smart, two-way, puck-moving defenseman who plays 20-plus minutes a night,” said general manager Joe Sakic in a statement released by the team. “He is a durable defender who is excellent in transition and we are excited to add him to our blueline.”

This is a pretty strong addition for an Avalanche team that is building a stellar defense.

[Related: ProHockeyTalk’s offseason trade tracker]

Toews, 26, joins a blue line that already features Cale Makar (the league’s rookie of the year), Sam Girard, Graves, Ian Cole, Erik Johnson, and will soon be getting 2019 fourth overall pick Bowen Byram. This deal also comes just a couple of days after they shipped Nikita Zadorov to the Chicago Blackhawks to acquire Brandon Saad, giving them even more forward depth.

Toews appeared in 68 games for the Islanders during the 2019-20 season, scoring six goals to go with 22 assists. Along with being able to contribute a little offensively, he is great in transition and has posted strong possession numbers (especially in relation to the rest of the Islanders) in his first two years in the league.

The additions of Saad and Toews over the past couple of days show just how important cap space can be. The Avalanche are already a Stanley Cup contender, but because they have two of their best players (Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog) signed to far below market contracts, while also having several other key contributors on team-friendly deals, they are able to keep adding around them.

Speaking of cap space, that is almost certainly one of the motivating factors for the Islanders to make this trade.

As of Monday they have just a little more than $8 million in salary cap space remaining but must re-sign restricted free agents Mathew Barzal and Ryan Pulock.

Barzal’s next contract is going to take up most — if not all — of that remaining space.

Toews will not be easy for the Islanders to replace. Given where those two second-round picks are likely to be, the odds of them picking a player that ends up being as good as Toews are slim.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.