With the Taylor Hall sweepstakes done and dusted on Sunday evening, the Montreal Canadiens were in need of a Plan B for adding more scoring depth. They were also limited by their cap situation after inking Josh Anderson and Joel Edmundson to sizable deals in the past few weeks. What happened was a bit of great negotiation from Marc Bergevin as he landed free agent Tyler Toffoli on a four-year deal worth $4.25 million a season.
Despite not getting the biggest fish in Hall, Bergevin landed himself a fine consolation prize in Toffoli, and did so without needing to shift any prominent members of his team in a trade. With his contract on the books, the Canadiens are just slightly over the cap ceiling right now, and will need to be compliant by the start of the season, which can be easily managed. While not ideal, moving a player like Jordan Weal or Brett Kulak clears more than enough without forcing the team to move a major roster player instead (there’s obviously a downside to trading away Kulak but that’s another story in itself).
Before delving into Toffoli’s advanced metrics it’s worth taking a look at his standard counting numbers by season. Since joining the NHL in a full-time role, he has seasons with 23 goals, 31, 24 twice, and then a season of 16, plus one with 13 goals. He had a strong showing on a poor Los Angeles Kings team this season, and after being traded to Vancouver posted 10 points in 10 games, with four points in seven playoff games for the Canucks.
In short, Toffoli brings a fairly consistent level of production, easily slotting in anywhere in the Canadiens’ top nine. The team now has multiple 20-goal wingers playing up and down the lineup.
There’s more to Toffoli than his goal totals show. In his career with the Kings, he was consistently playing top-six minutes, and not just doing well, but thriving in terms of attacking.
While there are a couple of Stanley Cup-calibre teams in those heatmaps, there’s also a handful of lottery clubs as well, and even then Toffoli did nothing but produce scoring chances. He has a net positive impact defensively across his career, with one outlying season in 2017-18.
He fits a mould that also created Brendan Gallagher and Josh Anderson. They are among the best volume shooters in the league.
It's like they're trying to corner the market on guys on the left side of the chart. pic.twitter.com/cwxuR1y7GX— Corey Sznajder (@ShutdownLine) October 12, 2020
The team has added another shot-generating machine, providing another wrinkle to the offence that was lacking at points last year. The Montreal attack might not be as polished as others around the league, but it’s going to be very good at getting the puck toward the net, and sooner or later it’s going to crack even the stingiest goaltender.
A big part of Toffoli’s arrival is that the lineup has far more flexibility across its top three lines, and it even allows the fourth line to have some offensive bite. Down the right side alone are three players capable of scoring 25 goals in Brendan Gallagher, Anderson and Toffoli, with any of them slotting into any of the three spots if necessary.
It’s not the elite scorer many have wanted, but the Canadiens now have a forward group capable of inflicting death by a thousand cuts. Claude Julien is now able to toss any of his lines out and reasonably expect some offensive pushback as well as solid defensive coverage. There aren’t many teams in the Eastern Conference that can easily match up to that kind of depth all game.
Perhaps the best part of Bergevin’s work on the Toffoli deal is that he came in well below what some projections had listed, including Evolving Hockey’s projection that had him signing his next deal at about $5.6 million per year on a four-year deal. Toffoli was half the cost of Hall, with some term and security to boot.
A move like this, coupled with the re-signing of Jeff Petry, along with Anderson’s long-term deal is also a clear signal from Bergevin to his veterans that he’s planning for this team to be a contender right now. Gallagher mentioned that he was hoping to see some deals get done before signing his extension, and this should be the exact thing he was looking for.
Across the board it’s hard to find any sort of issue with the Tyler Toffoli signing, the price is great, easily movable if it comes to that, and the term fits right into the Canadiens’ plans. Toffoli himself brings a new dimension to the offensive attack, providing a nice change of pace from the smashmouth style of Anderson and Gallagher around the net. He also adds much needed, proven scoring depth that gives Montreal three dangerous attacking lines, with a far more stable fourth line behind them.
They missed out on Taylor Hall, but the Canadiens still managed to grab a big-name free agent and improve the roster greatly, without breaking the bank. All in all, Marc Bergevin’s off-season work has been outstanding, and this contract is no exception.