After a week of humbling games against the NHL’s top three teams, the Flames have hit a reflection point in the season. In a week that was set up to be a great measuring stick for the Flames on where they stand amongst the league’s best, they come out of it going 0–3–0 while getting outscored 16–6.
It’s put management and the organization on notice that this team is not a true contender just yet. In fact Head Coach Darryl Sutter has been uttering the same message all week, essentially laying out how the team needs to improve before the trade deadline if they hope to contend this season.
This team needs depth, period. Particularly in the form of scorers and finishers, if they hope to ever be able to contend with the league’s best come playoff time. Some AHL call-ups could help, but more and more it appears as though a trade for an established top-six forward is the best single improvement the Flames can make.
So what players could be potential options? An immediate name that comes to mind is Tyler Toffoli for a plethora of reasons. With the Canadiens in a free fall, Toffoli has been mentioned as a trade chip in recent weeks by Canadiens reporter Eric Engels. Would he be a good fit with the Flames? Let’s take a look.
A brief history of Tyler Toffoli’s career
Toffoli is a 29-year-old right shot right winger currently playing for the Montreal Canadiens. With an April birthday, he’ll turn 30 right around the start of the playoffs. He is currently signed to a reasonable four-year, $17 million deal, and has two seasons remaining at an AAV of $4.25 million after this one.
Perhaps most importantly and what makes him a potential great fit for the Flames is that Toffoli played the first five seasons of his career under Darryl Sutter in Los Angeles, winning a Stanley Cup in the process in 2013–14. In fact the two highest point totals of his career both came under Sutter in 2014–15 and 2015–16. As well, his only 30+ goal season also came under Sutter, in 2015–16.
Unfortunately this season, he went down with a hand injury back on December 4th and hasn’t played since after undergoing hand surgery. That said the expected timeline for recovery is eight weeks, meaning he should be back around the beginning of February. This season he currently has 17 points in 26 games and was leading the Canadiens in scoring at the time of his injury.
So what type of player is Toffoli? Let’s take a look.
Toffoli is a proven scorer
Since entering the league all the way back in 2012 as a 20-year-old, Toffoli has consistently produced offence and in particular goals. Throughout his 10 year career to date, he’s been on pace for or scored at least 20 goals in a season six times in nine seasons (not including his 10 game rookie season).
Let’s take a look at his total production over the last three seasons and where he ranks among right wingers in the NHL.
|STAT||TYLER TOFFOLI||NHL RANK AMONG RIGHT WINGERS|
(2019–20 to 2021–22)
Toffoli’s impressive production over the last three years is noticeable right away. He ranks inside the top five among all right-wingers in the NHL over the last three seasons for goals with only David Pastrnak, Mikko Rantanen, Willian Nylander, and Bryan Rust having scored more in that time frame. He’s actually only eight goals behind Rantanen who ranks second.
His 57 goals would rank second on the Flames in that time frame behind only Elias Lindholm who has 60. The Flames have historically gotten brutal production from right wings, so Toffoli would unsurprisingly rank first on the Flames among right wings.
He also ranks very high when it comes to shots as he’s produced the sixth most among right wingers since the 2019–20 season. His 2.91 shots per game ranks as the 11th most by a right winger in that time span. To no one’s surprise he would rank first among all Flames right wingers for shots since 2019 by a mile, as Brett Ritchie’s 61 is currently first.
Looking past just goals, his overall point production is also very impressive when compared to the rest of the NHL’s right wingers as he ranks inside the top 20 for both points per game and points. The only area in which he falls a bit behind is assists which would be the last reason the Flames are acquiring him anyways.
Even when comparing him to all forwards in the league over the last three seasons, his 57 goals still rank an impressive 28th league wide. As well, his 425 shots rank 27th among all forwards. Long story short, Toffoli can score with the best players in the league.
Toffoli’s underlying numbers are great
How do his underlying numbers stack up comparatively? All numbers are 5v5, score-and-venue-adjusted courtesy of NaturalStatTrick.com. Only players with at least 1,000 minutes TOI over the last three seasons were considered.
|STAT||TYLER TOFFOLI||NHL RANK AMONG RIGHT WINGERS|
(2019–20 to 2021–22)
Not only is Toffoli a proven point producer, he’s also put up very solid underlying numbers throughout his career. Ranking inside the top 25 for CF%, xGF% and HDCF% across three seasons is no small feat, and highlights just how well rounded Toffoli’s game is offensively.
His 54.32 CF% would rank third among Flames forwards in that time span, behind only Matthew Tkachuk and Andrew Mangiapane. His xGF% of 56.62 would rank second among Flames forwards behind only Mangiapane.
Ranking inside the top 10 for both ixG and ixGF/60 reaffirms that Toffoli is one of the best goal producing right wings in the entire NHL. His ixG of 27.96 since 2019–20 would rank third among Flames forward behind you guessed it, Tkachuk and Mangiapane. His ixG/60 of 0.88 would be tied with Tkachuk for first on the Flames.
Despite playing for a struggling Canadiens teams currently second last in the NHL, Toffoli has still produced some solid underlying numbers this season. He’s posted a 52.04% xGF% and 52.26 HDCF%. Although his CF% sits at just 49% this year, it’s worth noting that throughout his entire nine year career before this season, he’s never posted a CF% lower than 50%.
His offensive impacts at 5v5 courtesy of HockeyViz.com have still been well above average this year, as well as being in a key area the Flames struggle with – offence from the right side of the ice. Needless to say he would add a much needed skillset to the Flames current roster.
Adding onto this, Toffoli is a proven finisher, something the Flames desperately need. He’s a career 11% shooter, but shot 12% two years ago and an astounding 17.7% last season for the Canadiens. He’s been unlucky on a bad Canadiens team this season shooting just 7.8%, but that number is bound to rise eventually. Just take a look at his ridiculous finishing ability last year.
Potential lineup with Toffoli
So how would the Flames lineup if they were to acquire Toffoli? Well first of all he would immediately become the team’s most talented right shot winger. For obvious reasons the team won’t want to break up their elite top line, so slotting Toffoli into the second line right wing spot is pretty straight forward. Here’s how I would line up in the top nine with Toffoli in the mix.
Gaudreau – Lindholm – Tkachuk
Mangiapane – Backlund – Toffoli
Dube – Monahan – Coleman
With Toffoli in the top six, the Flames would finally be able to line up with three solid lines that can contribute offensively. Mangiapane and Toffoli flanking Mikael Backlund would be a dominate possession line, with a ton of scoring and finishing ability to boot.
As well with Blake Coleman bumped to the third line, it gives the team a legitimate scoring line in the bottom-six without being dragged down by an anchor/fringe player. All three of Dillon Dube, Coleman, and Sean Monahan have scoring talent, and together they would finally give the Flames a line that can pick up the slack offensively in the bottom-six.
How to get it done?
Toffoli was actually moved at the deadline just two seasons ago, from the LA Kings to the Vancouver Canucks. In that deal he was traded for depth forward Tim Schaller, prospect Tyler Madden, and a third-round pick.
That said the Flames shouldn’t expect to get him for that cheap this time around. There are two major differences between then and now. First of all Toffoli was an upcoming free agent that season while this time around he still has two years left under contract.
When traded in 2020, Toffoli was playing at a 48 point pace and coming off a rough 34 point season. This year he’s coming off a season in which he finished seventh in the NHL for goals and was on pace for 69 points. So far this season, he’s on pace for 54 points on a terrible Canadiens team. The point is his value is much higher this time around due to his contract status and recent production.
I don’t see a situation in which the Canadiens don’t get at least a first-round pick back for Toffoli on top of a prospect or roster player. Trading a notable roster player doesn’t make much sense for the Flames unless it’s Monahan, but I can’t see a rebuilding Canadiens team interested in an expensive and struggling 27-year-old.
Something along the lines of a 2022 first rounder and a prospect like Ryan Francis or Emil Heineman could work. Perhaps the Flames would need to add an additional pick but it would be a good starting point. The team does have an extra second-round pick in 2022 from the Sam Bennett trade to work with.
As for the money, it could get tricky. The Flames currently have just $1.5 million in cap space available and Toffoli carries a $4.25 million cap hit so the Flames would have to move out some money to take on his full contract. Another more likely option is the Canadiens retaining some salary in the trade.
At 50% retained Toffoli would carry a $2.125 million cap hit, a number that the Flames would have no problem fitting in after sending down a depth piece like Brad Richardson or Trevor Lewis. It won’t be straight forward, but fitting Toffoli’s very reasonable contract into the teams structure shouldn’t be a stopping point.
Toffoli’s a perfect fit
Considering his fit with the Flames’ current roster and the much needed skillset he would bring to the team, Brad Treliving should be more than willing to pay up for Toffoli. First-round picks and prospects aren’t helping this team right now, and Toffoli certainly would.
He fills an exact need on the current roster, is still at a reasonable age, and comes with a very manageable cap hit. Add on the fact he played under Darryl Sutter for five years and there may not be a more perfect fit out there for the Flames.