With the calendar about to flip to August, the New Jersey Devils are inching closer and closer to training camp and the start of preseason. Despite the additions of P.K. Subban, Wayne Simmonds, and Jack Hughes, the Devils are still a ways away from rounding out their roster and being considered a legitimate cup contender, and it’s best they sort this out before the start of the season.
Aside from the left-side of their blue line, one of their biggest areas of need is more depth on the wing. Simmonds is in a decline and is a fringe top-six winger, and it’s naive to expect much from Jesper Boqvist in his rookie season.
There is next to nothing left on the free-agent market in terms of forwards, so it’s time for general manager Ray Shero to get back to working the phones and look to bolster his roster via trade.
In a perfect world, the Devils will make another big splash and bring in a player like Patrik Laine or potentially put an end to “Gusev-mania” and bring the young Russian winger into the fold from the Vegas Golden Knights, but that continues to look more and more unlikely. The offer sheet compensation to bring in someone as talented as Laine is way too steep and certain signs point to Nikita Gusev actually returning to the KHLif he can’t reach a resolution with the Golden Knights.
At this stage of the summer, Shero will likely want to maximize his return without giving up very much, which means trading for a player on an expiring contract that he can get at well below market value and see what he can do with a change of scenery.
One player that comes to mind is Tyler Toffoli of the Los Angeles Kings.
Toffoli Is Still a Good NHL Player
But when you look at Toffoli deeper than the score sheet, he had a relatively good season. He was among the Kings leaders in possession, posting a Relative Corsi percentage of 5.49%, which measures the difference in the number of shot attempts when Toffoli was on the ice as opposed to when he is off the ice. Also, with Toffoli on the ice, the Kings had slightly more high danger chances, 55.87%, than their opponents, and more scoring chances, 53.75%, as well.
That said, it’s no secret why Toffoli was on pace for 21 or more goals per 82 games from 2013-2018, including a career-high 31 goals and 58 points during the 2015-16 season.
His total points/60 minutes suggests he can still contribute at an above-average level, but he needs to be surrounded with better players.
Devils and Kings Match Up Well as Trade Partners
Toffoli is entering the last year of his current contract before reaching unrestricted free agency, and the Kings look just about ready to tear it all down and jumpstart the rebuild. That said, it’s hard to imagine Kings general manager Rob Blake not entertaining the thought of flipping Toffoli for picks and/or prospects – which is something the Devils have a plethora of.
Given his dip in point production, the cost to acquire Toffoli is likely a low-tier prospect or late-round picks. After restocking their farm system, the Devils are in a position of strength to trade some of these assets away.
At the end of the day, it’s a low-risk, high-reward type of situation for the Devils, just like their one-year deal with Simmonds.
While Toffoli isn’t the most attractive option on the table, if you surround him with better players and a change of scenery, he might be able to find his grove and get back to scoring 20-plus goals a season, something the Devils can certainly use.