Montreal Canadiens Could Benefit from Trading Toffoli

As the Montreal Canadiens’ Continue the COVID-forced suspensionThe speculation and rumour mills keep going. With the Habs currently at the bottom of the NHL standings, it won’t be surprising to see team management look to make trades to move out assets for futures. 

Jeff Gorton, executive vice-president of the league is likely to embark on a rebuilding effort. Therefore, it’s not surprising that Tyler Toffoli has been mentioned as an asset to any contending team. Toffoli could benefit from a move to a different team, as well as the Canadiens, who need to maximize their return and reduce their salary.

Toffoli’s Impact on Canadiens

Toffoli is an NHL coach’s dream as he provides predictable, consistent play. Toffoli is a defensive specialist who can anticipate plays and break up a game or pressurize defenders into making a rush. His position also allows his own defenders to begin the transition game.  

Tyler Toffoli, Montreal Canadiens. (Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

He is a good skater, even though he doesn’t have elite speed. He can make controlled zone entries in the offensive zone. Toffoli, once he is in the offensive area, can make and receive passes in traffic. He has a nose for the net as well — he can be found in the slot, in a gap between defenders where his quick release can surprise a goaltender.   

His 28 goals were the most in the team’s history. He also led the team with five game-winning goals, which played a crucial role in the Canadiens reaching the playoffs. He also provided crucial scoring in the playoffs. He scored the series-clinching goal against the Winnipeg Jets in overtime. Also, he was a veteran presence on what became the team’s top line in the playoffs with rookie Cole Caufield and sophomore centre Nick Suzuki.

Related: 3 Keys for a Successful Canadiens Rehabilitation

Canadiens Trade Rumors

With that type of performance and the Canadiens’ current struggles, it is no surprise to see Toffoli’s name being mentioned in rumors. Eric Engels from Sportsnet believes Toffoli is going to be Traded before the deadline. He was unable to play due to a hand injury, which required surgery. Despite the fact that he isn’t expected to be able to Return to the lineupHe would still have a month to get back to his game before the March 21st, 2022 trade deadline.

Toffoli’s contract is also a very digestible deal. He carries a team-friendly $4.25 million cap hit for the next two seasons, and he doesn’t have any trade protection in the form of a no-trade clause that could restrict Gorton in shopping for the best possible return.

His performances with the Canadiens and the Los Angeles Kings last season when he won the Stanley Cup prove that he can help teams win when it is most important. His proven veteran leadership was evident in his play helping Cole Caufield on the Habs’ top line during the 2021 Playoffs.

Cole Caufield Montreal Canadiens-Canadiens Would Benefit From Trading Toffoli
Cole Caufield (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images).

A general manager would want to add him to a team that is in contention. The New York Rangers are one example of such a team. Ethan Sears of The New York Post was told by Kevin Weekes, an ESPN analyst and ex-Ranger goaltender:

“One could make this case that they could try to get another top-six winger, could they want somebody like a Tyler Toffoli maybe, from Montreal?”

– Kevin Weekes (Rangers’ standing as serious Stanley Cup contender comes with a caveat, Etan Sears, New York Post, 4 Jan 2022)

While that is simply Weekes’ opinion, it does point to the desire for a team to add Toffoli to their lineup to help solidify a contending team’s roster.

Toffoli Trade Value

Toffoli, despite his contract and past performances, is still considered a high-value player for a team. Gorton will have to make sure he receives top-dollar value in return. It isn’t often a top-six winger capable of 20 to 30 goals, under a team-friendly deal with term, becomes available. 

Gorton and his team have to demand top prospects and picks. In the case of the Rangers, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to request the 2018 ninth-overall pick, Vitaly Kravtsov, and a pick. Why Kravtsov Kravtsov is a big-bodied, fast winger. He was also loaned to Kontintental Hockey League. You requested a trade. He can also remain in the KHL for the rest of the season, and then return to camp when the Canadiens are behind.

Vitali Kravtsov, New York Rangers-Canadiens Would Benefit From Trading Toffoli
Vitali Kravtsov (New York Rangers)Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers

Los Angeles Kings would also be a great fit. Buyers are likely to beThe trade deadline. Toffoli is well-known for having drafted him and winning a Cup together. It would be a great public relations move to bring him back to the place he started. 

Brandt Clarke, 2021 eighth-overall draft, right-handed defenseman, would be able fill an organizational need for Canadiens. However it is unlikely that Clarke will be available without the team adding to their deal. A pick and Finnish center Samuel Helenius could be possible. Canadiens also need to add a 6-foot-6 center, who can play a physical style, go to the net and be defensively responsible.

The Canadiens are able to be more aggressive in a seller’s market as they are under new management and in a free fall. As most teams are close to the salary cap, the Habs will be more willing to take on another team’s short-term undesirable contract in a trade if it means they can help fill an organizational need, and there are many. Toffoli’s signature was celebrated as a win for the Canadiens, and he lived up to the expectations. Gorton now has the opportunity to give him another chance to win and use his performance to help the team long-term by trading him for the highest possible return.