The Vancouver Canucks are scoring more than last season, but most of the points are being generated by the top line of Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson, and J.T. Miller. In fact, 33 percent of the offence has been generated by the Lotto Line. Don’t get me wrong, Bo Horvat and Tanner Pearson have made their contributions too, but they could use some help with consistently finding the net five-on-five.
Recently the Canucks have been scouting the Los Angeles Kings quite a bit, which begs the question, who are they looking at? Most people believe it is forward Tyler Toffoli. This is not out of left field, as he has been rumoured to be on the trading block for quite some time now.
The Canucks are still in need of a top-six winger to compliment Horvat and Pearson. So, let’s take a look at why Toffoli could be the missing piece to the conundrum that is the second line.
Reunion of Pearson and Toffoli
If the Canucks complete a trade for Toffoli they could be re-creating a line that did a lot of damage for the Kings during their dynasty years. Mind you, Horvat is not as skilled as Jeff Carter, but he has a lot of the same attributes. Both are big, two-way centerman with leadership qualities and a nose for the net. Maybe the trio can create the same magic the 70’s line did not so long ago.
In their prime, Pearson, Carter, and Toffoli were a force to be reckoned with. In the 2014 playoffs, they dominated opponents combining for 21 goals and 30 assists while helping the Kings to their second Stanley Cup Championship in three years.
Looking at the line stats from Natural Stat Trick, Pearson and Toffoli were quite the duo as well, combining for a 58.55 Corsi-for percentage (CF%) and nine goals-for when they were on the ice together in the playoffs. If Horvat can capture the same chemistry that Carter did with those two, Canucks fans could be in for a treat.
Toffoli is Young & Affordable
Toffoli is on a reasonable contract at $4.6 million average annual value (AAV). If the Canucks trade for him soon, that amount will be pro-rated as well. He is on an expiring deal too so the Kings will not be able to demand a lot for him in negotiations (unless it’s at the trade deadline, more on that later). However, he is a three-time 20 goal scorer and consistent 30-plus point player, so acquiring him may require a high draft pick or quality forward.
The other good thing about Toffoli is that he is not over 30 years old. He is still relatively young at 27, so he fits in well with what the Canucks are trying to do in their re-build. He could be part of the veteran contingent of forwards general manager Jim Benning seems to like having around to support his burgeoning group of young stars.
Toffoli Can Still Score
Toffoli has had a rough couple of seasons. Coincidentally, it started when his best friend Tanner Pearson was traded during the 2018-19 season to the Pittsburgh Penguins and subsequently the Canucks. He finished with 13 goals, which was the lowest since his sophomore season when he scored 12. This season has not started well either as he only has six goals to his credit and has already been a healthy scratch.
But that should not deter the Canucks from acquiring the speedy two-way winger. He is not far removed from a 24 goal season, and may only need a change of scenery and a familiar face looking over from the left-wing.
Taming a Canuck Killer
If you can’t beat him, why not acquire him? Toffoli has been a thorn in the Canucks side ever since he joined the Kings full time in the 2014-15 season. Over the course of his career, he has 12 goals including a hat trick against them. If that magic can transfer from a crown to an orca, another Canuck Killer will have been silenced.
The last time the Canucks converted one to the good side was when they signed Raffi Torres, who was annoyance not only with his physical play but his goal-scoring as well. He was even more successful than Toffoli scoring 14 times over the course of his career. He joined the team in the 2010-11 season and was a major part of the Stanley Cup run that year.
If Toffoli can make a similar impact, acquiring him will definitely be worth it, especially if he is with the team longer than one season.
Who Could the Canucks Trade for Toffoli?
Unfortunately, I think the sun has set on Sven Baertschi’s time with the Canucks. At 27 years old, he deserves to be in a place where he can play in the NHL and potentially rejuvenate his career. After being called up for a couple of games and getting sent back to the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League again, I’m sure he is already looking at plying his trade elsewhere.
With Baertschi, the Kings get a player that still has potential and could break out playing with the right players in the right situation. He will get opportunities the Canucks just can’t give him right now, so it could be a win-win for both teams.
Baertschi has one more year left on his contract at $3.36 million AAV, so the Kings may be more inclined to acquire him. They won’t have to worry about signing him in the offseason, unlike Toffoli who will be an unrestricted free agent. Additionally, Baertschi could be exposed to the new Seattle expansion team, eliminating the need to expose a younger player with more potential.
The writing is on the wall for Nikolay Goldobin. Even after dominating down in the AHL with the Comets, he can’t seem to get out of head coach Travis Green’s dog house. Since he was called up he’s seen only a little over eight minutes of ice time. He got removed from Pettersson’s line almost immediately and was benched the entire third period in his first game back in the NHL.
It’s clearly not working in Vancouver for the man they call Goldy. Just like Baertschi, I think he needs a change of scenery and a coach that is not Green. Now the question is, would the Kings want him? He definitely still has potential at 24 years old and could be a better fit than Baertschi for re-building the team. He also isn’t on a long term contract, so the Kings won’t be forced to invest a lot of years in him.
That could be the deal-breaker though, as Goldobin may not be enough to acquire a player like Toffoli. The Canucks may need to add a sweetener like a draft pick or mid-range prospect to the mix in order to get it done.
Another issue could come in the form of McLennan as he was the head coach of the San Jose Sharks when Goldobin was a member of the team. So he may have some objections to acquiring him. It may not be an issue though, as he only played 11 games with the team. That probably wasn’t enough of a sample size for McLellan to form a negative opinion of him.
Those are just two possibilities Benning could float to Kings general manager Rob Blake. They may not be enough to get a player like Toffoli though, especially if he waits until the trade deadline to pull the trigger on a deal. As we all know, the deadline brings out the crazy in the hockey world.
Player values skyrocket at that time of year and Toffoli could be worth a first-round pick when all is said and done. Even though the Canucks seem to have hit a home run doing that with Miller, I don’t think they should be tempting fate twice. The key difference being that one was a hockey trade while the other could be a rental.
Toffoli will need to be re-signed, and if he breaks out with Horvat and Pearson, he could be in line for a raise the Canucks just can’t afford. That being said, I still think Benning should try to get his hands on him. He could be the missing piece to a potentially lethal top-six, and the key to a playoff berth that has alluded the team for four seasons.
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, media editor, and scout who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.