Avalanche’s Devon Toews happy to find ‘middle ground’ on extension, excited for what’s to come

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — The night before the Colorado Avalanche opened training camp, Devon Toews said he’d like a contract extension done before the season began.

The defenseman didn’t quite get his wish, but he got close. On Friday, two days after Colorado’s season-opening win against the Kings, he agreed to a seven-year contract worth $7.25 million annually. The deal will start next season and, according to PuckPedia, includes a no-move clause for the first two years and a 12-team no-trade list for the last five.

“Took all summer, but (I’m) happy we were able to find some middle ground and get a deal done,” Toews said Friday. 

“Everybody’s excited,” coach Jared Bednar added. “Whenever you can get something like that done so it’s not in the back of people’s minds going into a season, I think it’s the best-case scenario.” 

Toews will be 30 when his contract begins, and Colorado has traditionally been hesitant to give long-term, big-money deals to older players. The Avalanche sacrificed by agreeing to give the standout defensemen seven years of security, and in exchange Toews took less annual money than he could have received had he reached the open market next summer.

Colorado acquired Toews ahead of the 2020-21 season, sending two second-round picks to the New York Islanders, who were in a salary cap crunch. Since then, playing on a $4.1 million AAV contract, Toews has emerged as one of the most steady defensemen in the league. In his first three seasons with Colorado, he led NHL defensemen in plus-minus (plus-120) and even-strength points (113), all while fitting seamlessly with superstar Cale Makar. On the ice after Colorado won the 2022 Stanley Cup, Toews’ parents thanked then-general manager Joe Sakic, now the president of hockey operations, for taking a chance on their son. The Avalanche have helped his career take off.

When his new deal kicks in, Toews will be the 29th-highest paid defenseman in the NHL, and that number could go up depending on how much other defensemen sign for going into the 2024-25 season. But he doesn’t look at his deal as a negative that way. He has a wife, two kids and a dog to also consider, and they all enjoy living in Colorado.

“That definitely factors in,” he said. “I don’t think I necessarily took a pay cut. It’s a great deal. I’m very happy. My family’s happy about it as well.”

Two-year-old Bennett, Toews’ oldest child, is too young to understand what a new contract means, but he now grasps what hockey is. Toews is hoping he’ll get to some games soon.

“He’s starting to enjoy the game and watch it a little bit more, which is a fun part, too,” he said. “Him being able to grow up here and be able to watch this team play will be really cool.” 

Toews enjoys playing for a quality team, and the Avalanche are still in a window of contention. Staying in his situation meant some sacrifice because of the salary cap.

“I want to win and I want this team to win,” he said. “If I’m able to give a little to help that and help the cause, it’s what I want to do. It’s fun to play this game and a privilege to play this game, but it’s also an honor to win Cups too. It’s something you strive for.”

Toews has finished in the top 15 of Norris Trophy voting each year since coming to Colorado and was eighth in 2021-22. Now he’s paid like part of the team’s core, though Makar said he’s still underrated. They’re set to remain a pairing through at least 2026-27, when Makar’s deal expires.

“You look at all the teams that have won and the teams that have continued to have success, and they’ve got their core guys locked up and they fill in around them with the best pieces,” Bednar said. 

Makar raves about Toews whenever he can. Discussing his excitement over the new contract, Makar even compared his teammate to Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom.

I don’t think that’s a crazy comparison to be honest with you,” he said. “A lot of the things he does and the way he moves and how efficient he is, he’s very very Lidstrom-esque. I think in our game today he’s the closest you can get to that.”

That’s perhaps a stretch — Lidstrom won the Norris Trophy seven times — but Toews’ value in all situations can’t be overstated. He’s arguably the Avalanche’s best defensive defenseman and plays a vital role on the penalty kill, all while consistently contributing on the offensive end.

Away from the ice, Toews was Colorado’s 2022-23 nominee for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, which is given to a player who shows leadership capabilities and “has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.” Toews earned the nomination for his support of Freedom Service Dogs of America, and he plans to continue his community involvement throughout his time in Denver, where he’s grown comfortable.

“We have great neighbors,” he said. “The Avs have a great support staff. The community is great, and I look forward to doing more for the community and helping out in different ways.”

Toews acknowledged it wasn’t always easy to compartmentalize extension negotiations over the summer, but it got less difficult when camp started. He could then focus on hockey, paying less attention to the back-and-forth of contract talks and more to preparing for games.

“I tried to stay patient with it,” he said.  “(Teammates) were really supportive and understand the whole process. I didn’t feel any pressure to get anything done or pressure that something wasn’t going to get done. It was just more trusting the process of getting to the finish line.”

Negotiations heated up the past few days. By opening night, the sides were working on the final details. Now it doesn’t have to linger, although there is one element of the new deal still on Makar’s mind. Toews, he said, will have to treat his teammates to a meal now that he has gotten a raise.

“I don’t know (when),” Makar said with a laugh. “But he’ll be pulling out his card, that’s for sure.”

(Photo: Ron Chenoy / USA Today)

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