In a move that appears to kick off the NHL trade deadline frenzy, the Calgary Flames have acquired forward Tyler Toffoli from the Montreal Canadiens. For the Flames, the deal establishes them as all-in on the season. In a weaker Pacific Division, general manager Brad Treliving appears to be going for it. For the Canadiens, on the other hand, the rebuild is officially underway, as new GM Kent Hughes collects future assets in exchange for a popular veteran. The full trade is as follows:
- Calgary Flames receive: Forward Tyler Toffoli
- Montreal Canadiens receive: Forward Tyler Pitlick, forward Emil Heineman, 2022 first-round pick, 2023 fifth-round pick
Without further ado, here are the grades:
While the Flames have had an up-and-down season, they currently sit in second place in the Pacific Division, just one point behind the Vegas Golden Knights with three fewer games played. While the Knights will integrate November acquisition Jack Eichel into their lineup later this week, he likely won’t be his usual self so soon after surgery, and the rest of the Pacific Division looks very weak this year.
On top of that, this is a pivotal season for the Flames, considering how busy their offseason will be. Star player and Hart Trophy candidate Johnny Gaudreau is a pending unrestricted free agent, and Brad Treliving has several restricted free agents to sign as well, including breakout forward Andrew Mangiapane. Given how well Calgary has played, going all-in is the right choice for this season.
As for the player that Treliving targeted, Toffoli looks like a great fit. Last season, he scored 28 goals in only 52 games. While he has not been quite as productive this year, that is to be expected given how poorly Montreal has played. On a contending team, Toffoli functions as a quality secondary scorer, which is a type of player that Calgary has been sorely lacking. The Flames have been in need of offensive contributions beyond just their top line of Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, and Matthew Tkachuk, and Toffoli can likely provide it.
Making the deal even better is the fact that Calgary did not give up that much. A first-round pick is never easy to give up, but Calgary’s pick this year will almost certainly be late. Prospect Emil Heineman is decent, but the Flames left the upper echelon of their prospect pool untouched, hanging on to players like Connor Zary and Matthew Coronato. Tyler Pitlick and the fifth-rounder are primarily throw-ins. For a very good top-six player with term on his contract in Toffoli, that price is more than reasonable, and for that reason, Calgary gets a very high grade.
FInal Grade: A+
The Canadiens’ new management regime has made its first major move, dealing a productive veteran player who was popular among fans and team members alike. Although it is never easy to see an important player like Toffoli go, it is the necessary price extracted by a rebuild. Hughes and executive vice president of hockey operations Jeff Gorton have not confirmed plans to embark on a full-on rebuild, but the departure of Toffoli, a player with two years left on his contract after this one, suggests that that is the direction in which Montreal is headed.
The decision to let go of important veterans in exchange for futures is the right one given how abysmal the Canadiens have been this season. However, Montreal fails to garner as high a grade due to a slightly underwhelming return. The package acquired from Calgary is very reasonable, but not exactly a deal that Hughes and Gorton couldn’t pass up. Since Toffoli has so much term left on his deal, Montreal could and should have held out for a better offer, one that included an A-level prospect (although it should be noted that Gorton and Hughes are reportedly high on Heineman). This return is solid, but the trade simply feels a bit rushed.
Final Grade: B
As in any trade that involves futures, the complexion of this deal could change depending on how the Canadiens’ assets turn out. However, as it stands, the Flames come out on top of this one. The implications of this trade are worth keeping an eye on, as Calgary aims for the Cup and Montreal looks to rebuild.
Jake is a reliable source for the Seattle Kraken here at The Hockey Writers. Hailing from New York City, he is an avid fan of all things hockey and is always involved with the sport, whether that means writing, watching, or playing. An enthusiastic advocate for sports analytics, Jake will often weave them into his posts to support his ideas. More of his work can be found on his Substack page, and he is a contributor with @hky_tapetalk on Instagram. For any questions or inquiries, Jake can be contacted on his Twitter, @jakezrihen.