Canucks: Re-signing Tyler Toffoli would be a mistake

Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

The Vancouver Canucks are trying their best to re-sign Tyler Toffoli, but they’d be better off letting him walk.

When news came down that the Vancouver Canucks had traded Tim Schaller, Tyler Madden, a 2020 second round pick and a conditional selection for Tyler Toffoli (a pending UFA), first thought was “they need to re-sign him”.

That view seemed pretty commonly held amongst Canucks fans, if only because the acquisition cost was so high at the time.

The thought of giving up a top prospect, who is a cost-controlled asset for the foreseeable future, plus the 50th overall pick in this Octobers’ draft, for a handful of regular season and playoff games is too much to stomach. Toffoli was a point-per-game player in his 10 regular season games with the Canucks, and performed ably over seven playoffs games (four points), though he was clearly slowed by injury.

Given the organizational impetus to win now, which seems to have driven general manager Jim Benning and assistant GM John Weisbroad’s decision making since the Trevor Linden ousting, there is both internal and external pressure to sign Toffoli to a long-term deal.

The 28-year-old Toffoli has a reputation as an established NHL goal scorer. The Scarborough, Ont. native has bested the 20-goal plateau four times over seven seasons. His assist totals are passable, but his boxcar stats profile him as a second-line player or even a high-level third-liner.

While the Canucks desperately need to improve their depth scoring, signing a player to a multi-year deal worth $5 million per season is not the most efficient way to do that.

Toffoli is represented by high-profile player agent Pat Brisson from CAA Sports. CAA’s other notable NHL agent is J.P. Barry, who is also the proud negotiator of the Loui Eriksson and Tyler Myers contracts.

The most recent reports from TSN’s Rick Dhaliwal on negotiations between Canucks management and the Toffoli camp have suggested a deal could be struck in the range of a four-year term at $5 million annually. The Canucks must clear cap space to make it work, though.

However, in the COVID-shaken, flat cap environment that is this NHL offseason, almost no team has the cap space or financial appetite to take on an inefficient contract that the Canucks need to move.

As such, it is unlikely that Eriksson, Brandon Sutter or Sven Baertschi can be traded, unless an underachieving player with a similar cap hit comes back the other way. This sort of lateral move might make sense for the Canucks if the team’s pro scouting department values that incoming player as a reclamation project. A deal like this could bring with it some modest cap relief, but not the substantial savings the Canucks will need to sign two of their three key upcoming free agents.

Re-signing Toffoli would only take the Canucks organization further down the road to salary cap issues that has been paved by this management group. Benning has said that re-signing team MVP Jacob Markstrom is a priority.

If the Canucks and the Markstrom camp can come to a new deal, which is reported to be what both sides want, look for Toffoli to hit the UFA market on Oct. 9.

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If Markstrom decides to take a big deal elsewhere (which is a right he has absolutely earned), or if the Canucks can somehow move one of those anchor contracts, it’s likely that they’ll sign Toffoli. But it would be a mistake.