NHL Trade candidates: What Tyler Toffoli can bring to the Calgary Flames

Flames GM Brad Treliving discusses the move to land Tyler Toffoli from the Montreal Canadiens, why he sees him as such a great fit, and what his expectations are of the versatile forward the rest of the season.

From now until the March 21 trade deadline, speculation on player movement is going to grow. But we save the actual speculation for the insiders. Instead, we build on their reporting with analysis on the players on the block, and what they can bring to an acquiring team.

Let’s talk forwards this week, starting with a player who was traded on Monday:

Tyler Toffoli

Toffoli signed with the Montreal Canadiens in October 2020, but are quite different today. After a run to the Stanley Cup Final, they’re trying to climb their way out of the basement of the standings. So their long-term picture does not include a player who can help a contender right now -- but he will help the acquiring Flames, who added him for picks and prospects Monday. Toffoli’s not a rental, with two more years at a $4.25 million cap hit after this season.

By making this move, the Flames add a scoring winger in Toffoli. Last year really represented the best of what he can bring to a lineup -- from his ability to break the puck out of the defensive end, bring it into the offensive zone with control, and generate offence from the quality areas of the ice. At 5-on-5, he was one of the most frequent shooters from a volume and quality perspective in Montreal. It was also one of his best finishing seasons, as he net 28 goals while shooting at an inflated 18 per cent. When analyzing the ‘quality’ of Toffoli's shots last season, he was about six goals above expectations in all situations.

This year was obviously a different story in Montreal, as he was scoring at one of the lowest rates of his career at .86 goals per 60 in all situations. What might be behind it? At 5-on-5, his shot rate and slot shot generation has decreased by about three attempts per 60 -- although the Canadiens were still a better team offensively when Toffoli was deployed, versus on the bench. Even with that downswing in shooting, he still lead the Canadiens in expected goals with 11.8 in all situations. That number, however, falls about 2.8 below his actual goal total. His impact on the scoresheet has primarily been helpers instead of his own tallies.

In a better environment on the contending Flames, Toffoli's shooting (and scoring) touch that he’s consistently made an impact with throughout his career should rebound.

Conor Garland

As reported a few weeks back, the Canucks' new-look management is trying to reshape the roster. That may lead to some subtractions, including Garland. Like Toffoli, the winger isn’t a rental. The 25-year-old Garland signed a five-year contract in Vancouver with a $4.95 million cap hit just last summer after being traded from the Coyotes. That makes him an option for more than just contenders right now, but also teams trying to push back into the playoffs over the next couple of seasons.

Garland may not have stature that many general managers hope to add to their lineup, but he still makes a sizable impact on the ice. Much of it stems from his puck-moving abilities; he can bring it out of the defensive end with control and does it at the second-highest pace in Vancouver with 24.6 exits per 60 at 5-on-5. He often brings it all the way into the offensive zone too, with 13.6 controlled entries per 60. There, some of his best contributions are dangerous passes to the slot. He ranks highly in the league with his 12.1 attempts per 60, but he’s only connected on 32 per cent of those tries; still, his successful 3.82 passes per 60 rank second on the Canucks. His play with the puck on his stick attracts opposing defenders, which helps him make space for his linemates to get into shooting position.

As for special teams, Garland’s on the second power play unit and helps get his team those opportunities with 23 drawn penalties (fifth in the league, and the third-best plus-14 penalty differential). While he doesn’t play on the penalty kill, given his two-way impact, an acquiring team could experiment with him there, too.

Phil Kessel

Lastly, we’re going to look at a rental option for playoff teams. Kessel has one year left on his eight-year, $64 million contract. He’s not available at that $8 million cap hit, though -- 15 per cent of that cap hit has already been retained by the Maple Leafs, lowering his hit to $6.8 million. But if a team wants the Coyotes to reduce that further, then he’d be the last salary they could hold on to a percentage of, seeing as they already retained salary on Darcy Kuemper and Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

Amanda Kessel’s brother isn’t having a stellar season. He currently has just six goals, which are about 19 per cent of his scoring. Generally, his goal scoring is upwards of 30 per cent of his point totals, often somewhere in the 40- and 50- per cent range. Like Amanda, Phil’s an effective shooter which is why his goal scoring usually makes up a greater chunk of his point total. Last year his finishing helped him score 6.5 more goals than his 13.5 expected. It’s possible this season is just a regression from last year’s over performance; he’s currently 3.3 goals below expected.

Kessel’s 5-on-5 shooting isn’t really behind the downswing -- he has a couple more shot attempts per 60 this year, and is somewhat even in slot shots compared to last year. It could be a matter of set up support this season -- or a lack thereof; his passing, at least, has been somewhat consistent to last year so there hasn’t been a dip on the scoresheet.

A change in environment could do wonders, though. And teams may find some confidence in how Kessel was such an effective player in Pittsburgh when acquired to help them push towards a championship. Teams can take solace in the fact the winger helps bolster the Coyotes’ offence at even strength, but there’s only so much one player can control there.

Data via Sportlogiq.

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