Some things in life are just too tempting. For Vancouver Canucks’ general manager Jim Benning, one of such things seemed to be the overwhelming urge to reunite Los Angeles Kings winger Tyler Toffoli with his former linemate Tanner Pearson.
As NHL teams approach next Monday’s trade deadline, buyers are being confronted with some high prices, like the New Jersey Devils getting a high-end prospect and a first-round pick in exchange for Blake Coleman.
So it shouldn’t be shocking that the Canucks paid a fairly high price to address their secondary scoring, sending veteran forward Tim Schaller, prospect Tyler Madden and a second-round pick to the Kings in exchange for Toffoli.
Let’s start with what the Canucks are getting.
Toffoli and Pearson obviously had some nice chemistry with Jeff Carter in L.A. as part of “That ‘70s Line”. Whether they can recreate that might not even be super relevant. With Brock Boeser out for an undetermined amount of time, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Canucks start Toffoli on Elias Pettersson’s wing.
(UPDATE: The Canucks announced after the trade that Boeser would be out for at least three weeks and would be evaluated after that.)
Toffoli had 34 points in 58 games but had some strong underlying stats on a terrible Kings team.
As a player, it seems like Toffoli might fit in well with the Canucks, giving them another offensive option who can play in the top six and create chances.
But more important than that is what this move means for the organization’s future. Benning is clearly ready to start pushing the chips in on the Canucks after the club has had a surprisingly solid season. And with the Pacific Division so incredibly tight, Benning seized the opportunity to try and push his team over the top.
Are the Canucks one of the NHL’s elite teams? We would say no. Do they have a legitimate chance to win their division and win a couple of rounds? They do.
But “once you’re in, you’ve got a shot” is more or less “playoff games mean more revenue” to NHL clubs, and it’s admittedly tough to see the Canucks going on a heater and beating teams like St. Louis or Colorado in a seven-game series. But hey, it could happen.
You can’t say it’s not a gutsy move by Benning, who probably was starting to feel some heat after the Canucks gave up their spot at the top of the Pacific Division.
There’s also a conditional fourth-round draft pick involved if the Canucks re-sign Toffoli, who is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. We’ll get into the return in a second, but Tim Schaller is clearly only a part of the deal to provide some cap relief to the Canucks, who are going to have to do some mathematical gymnastics in order to get Toffoli’s $4.6 million under the cap.
That’ll go doubly for signing him next year, too, which seems unlikely at this exact moment, but is definitely possible.
As for what the Canucks gave up, we already mentioned that Schaller is a throw-in. The second-round pick isn’t great, mostly because the Canucks already (likely) gave up their first in the J.T. Miller deal. So having to wait until the third-round for Vancouver to draft in Montreal in the summer is going to be tough. But you can live with that.
(Although it does feel like scouting mastermind Judd Brackett is probably gone when his contract expires this summer.)
This trade will be won and lost with Tyler Madden, the Northeastern University forward who went to Vancouver in the third round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
Madden has 37 points in 27 games this year, and was highly regarded in scouting circles. The Athletic’s Cory Pronman rated Madden as the Canucks’ fifth-best prospect at the outset of the season, calling him a “very good NHL prospect”, while another Athletic writer, Scott Wheeler, had him as the team’s third-best prospect at the end of January.
So it’s not easy for Canucks fans who don’t think the team has a realistic chance to make a deep playoff run to see the logic behind this move.
It’s impossible to confidently say that this will end horribly or great for the Canucks, as there are so many variables when it comes to prospects. Maybe Madden lights the AHL on fire next year. Or maybe he has trouble adapting to the pro game.
In all, it feels like the Canucks gave up a lot to get Toffoli. But you have to give things of value to see value in return. Yes, it’ll suck to see Madden earn a bottom-six role on the Kings in the next couple of years and then slowly establish himself as a productive player. That’ll be hard to swallow.
But hey, it’s also been four years since the Canucks played in the playoffs.