New Jersey Devils Should Call Jonathan Toews For A Return To Hockey

The New Jersey Devils are desperate for a center now that Michael McLeod is gone from the team for the foreseeable future. There is a legend available that can do exactly what McLeod was doing on the ice.

Chicago Blackhawks v New Jersey Devils
Chicago Blackhawks v New Jersey Devils / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

The New Jersey Devils have major holes at the goalie position, both sides of the defense, and now with Michael McLeod out indefinitely, they have a need at center. The Devils could definitely survive if Tomas Nosek comes back full healthy (and Jack Hughes, obviously), but it's not ideal. They could use a center to move everyone in better spots.

There are plenty of center options out there on the trade market. Adam Henrique is reportedly giving the Ducks a great option on the trade market. Trevor Zegras might be available after those same Ducks traded for Cutter Gautier. Who knows the status of Shane Pinto after his gambling-related suspension, but he could probably be had. Buffalo might see the writing on the wall and move Casey Middlestadt.

However, there's a huge issue with the market. Everyone costs a ton. The Vancouver Canucks traded for center Elias Lindholm, costing them Andrei Kuzmenko, a first-round pick, and two prospects. The Canadiens got a first and a third-round pick for Sean Monahan, a player that the Flames literally traded a first-round pick just to get off their roster.

With trades costing so much, the Devils might go another route. There is a very good center, one who is good at exactly what the team needs, that is available for free. He does come with some baggage, but let's see the positives first.

Jonathan Toews was once one of the best centers in the NHL. During the Chicago Blackhawks championship seasons, Toews was the reason the Stanley Cup went to the Windy City (along with Patrick Kane). He did just about everything for the Hawks, playing in all three phases.

Toews is such a perfect replacement for what the Devils are now missing at the center position. There was just a few players in the league (who was a full-time center) who had a better faceoff percentage than McLeod. Toews actually led the league, winning 63.1% of his faceoffs. That's a stat the Devils can get behind.

On top of that, Toews can play the penalty kill. He had more than a minute of PK time each game last year. He's always been known as a penalty killer. Even at his age (he's 35 years old), he can still play at a pretty high level defensively.

There are a few issues with bringing this up. Toews was a star on that 2010 Blackhawks team that also included Kyle Beach, the player that was sexually assaulted by someone on staff. This included years of cover ups before it finally came to light more than a decade later. Of course, nobody will ever know what he actually knew, but the Devils might not want to even deal with any sort of PR hit with what they have with McLeod's court case.

Toews is not a long-term fix. With his advanced age, the Devils would still need to deal with this situation in the offseason. Is that something that Tom Fitzgerald would want to do? Does the Devils GM have any interest in a quick fix if it doesn't cost them any assets? That's not usually how Fitzgerald operates, but the Devils situation might force his hand.

Then, there's the factor of Toews. Is he even ready to come back to the NHL? Some thought he might retire. If he can return, would he want to do it with the Devils? Another member of that dynasty signed with the Devils at one point. We know how the Corey Crawford "era" ended. He decided that making no money at home was better than spending one moment with this franchise. Toews might give Crawford a call before signing, and he might say no. The Devils aren't exactly Stanley Cup contenders right now. That's another factor in Toews decision.

However, the Devils have this interesting dynamic of need and actual roster worthy of contention. We've seen teams in the past hit their stride at the right time and make a run to the Cup or at least the Cup Final. Toews might see that in this team, playing behind Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier to add a needed element to this team.

Toews might be exactly what the Devils need to turn this around. This could be a contender with the right pieces in place. Toews feels like a slam dunk signing, but he probably needs a little convincing.