Islanders Devon Toews trade was still the right call

New York Islanders defenseman Devon Toews (25) (Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)
New York Islanders defenseman Devon Toews (25) (Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)

Johnny Boychuk is headed for LTIR, were the New York Islanders right to trade away Devon Toews knowing this?

In October, the New York Islanders sent puck-moving defenseman Devon Toews to the Colorado Avalanche for two second-round picks. GM Lou Lamoriello was clear that the decision was difficult, but with the position the team was in with the salary cap, it was a necessary trade.

The Avalanche soon signed Toews to a four-year $16.4 million deal ($4.1 million AAV). With Johnny Boychuk now hanging up his skates, could the Islanders have kept Toews with Boychuk’s money on LTIR?

As it stands now, no, and that’s why the deal was made.

No Space

We know that one of the key factors in Lou Lamoriello trading Devon Toews to the Avalanche was the cap implications of re-signing the then RFA. Lou himself indicated that immediately after making the trade.

“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.

But that was before he knew that Johnny Boychuk was going to hang up his skates. Could Lou have found a way to sneak Toews under the salary cap with what we know right now? No.

The Islanders only have $3.905 million in space today. Placing Boychuk on LTIR could open up more cap space but as of right now that would only add another $2.096 million in cap space for a total of $6.001 million. That alone won’t be enough for Mathew Barzal and certainly not enough for Barzal, Toews, or any other depth options like Martin and Greene.

But Could they Make Room?

Time marches on and everything I just said is as of today (November 28). Could the Islanders eventually make room to get Toews under the cap? Yes, they could, just barely.

If Ladd goes to LTIR like we all suspect he will, the Isles could arguably tap into another $5.5 million in cap space, which would be more than enough space for Mathew Barzal, Devon Toews, Matt Martin, Andy Greene and they’d still have money left over.

Even if Ladd isn’t destined for LTIR the Islanders could make it work, but barely. Here’s the math:

  • Let’s assume Barzal signs a bridge deal with a $7 million AAV, Toews signs for $4.1 million AAV, and that both Martin and Greene sign for $1 million. That’s $13.1 million needed.
  • Now, let’s assume the Isles can use Boychuk’s full $6 million hit through LTIR. That creates  $9.905 million in total space.
  • Now, Ladd gets buried in the AHL, as does Hickey and Komarov. That opens up another $3.225 million. For a total of $13.13 million in cap space.
  • Sign everyone and the Isles still have $30,000 in cap space.

So while they could make it work, there are a number of assumptions that could easily break this scenario. My margin for error is VERY small.

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Lou and the Islanders clearly didn’t feel comfortable running up that close against the salary cap ceiling. Getting two second-round picks for Devon Toews was a good bit of business from the Isles and maybe they’ve now given themselves a bit of room to bring in some more depth scoring?