The Islanders dealt defenseman Devon Toews to the Avalanche Monday in exchange for Colorado’s second-round pick in both the 2021 and 2022 NHL Drafts.
Toews, the Isles’ second-leading scorer among defenseman in the regular season, ended up being the organization’s first roster casualty due to the NHL’s flat salary cap in wake of the pandemic. The 26-year-old restricted free agent filed for arbitration recently, prompting general manager Lou Lamoriello to make the move out of uncertainty about the future.
“It certainly played a role, I’ll be straight forward on it, unfortunately,” Lamoriello said on a Zoom call Monday of the salary cap’s impact on the trade. “Combination of the player going to arbitration with the unknown and being able to acquire assets, which we’ve used in previous trades. It’s all encompassing.”
Lamoriello said trading Toews was a step toward freeing up some cap space, presumably to ensure the organization can re-sign RFA’s Mathew Barzal and Ryan Pulock. However, the GM of the Year said the deal wouldn’t have been made if Islanders brass didn’t feel they already had a player who could fill Toews’ void.
“Noah Dobson, we feel, is certainly ready to take the next step so we’ll have to just wait and see,” he said.
The Islanders drafted Toews 108th overall in 2014 out of Quinnipiac, where he was a finalist for the ECAC Hockey Best Defensive Defenseman. He spent the first two seasons in the organization with the team’s AHL affiliate in Bridgeport before earning his first call up in December 2018.
Toews split time between Bridgeport and the Islanders in 2018-19, collecting five goals and 13 assists in 48 NHL games. In 2019-20, Toews recorded six goals and 22 assists in 68 games, including two goals and eight assists in 22 playoff games during the Islanders’ run to the Eastern Conference Finals this year.
“It takes two to make a transaction,” Lamoriello said. “Devon was the individual involved, that’s the best way to put it. Not that he was a player targeted. I had a conversation with him, and certainly it was a very difficult conversation because he’s such a quality human being as well as a good hockey player.”
Lamoriello said that with the Toews trade, bringing back veteran defenseman Andy Greene becomes a “very strong option.”
“Because he did play with Noah for a good period of time,” Lamoriello said of Greene. “We’ll have to see. We just have to see how things go. There’s a strong chance that Andy will be back in some role, yes.”
After Joshua Ho-Sang filed for arbitration, Lamoriello wouldn’t commit to saying the 24-year-old forward was part of the organization’s future plans.
“We’ll have to see what transpires,” he said. “I’m sure you’re all aware that he filed for arbitration, which I was very surprised at. We’ll have to see what the future brings.”
The Islanders added free agent winger Austin Czarnik on Monday, inking the 27-year-old to a two-year, two-way deal worth $1.45 million. Since going pro in 2015, Czarnik has bounced between the NHL and AHL, getting NHL time in Boston and Calgary before joining the Isles. He’s posted 38 points — 13 goals and 25 assists — playing mostly in a bottom-six role.
They also re-signed defenseman Grant Hutton to a two-year deal worth up to $725,000 per season. Over part of two seasons in AHL Bridgeport, Hutton, 25, totaled 7 goals and 27 points over 64 games.