Treliving on trading early for Toffoli: 'We didn't want him going anywhere else'

Ryan Leslie and Eric Engels discuss the Tyler Toffoli trade from Montreal to Calgary from both teams' perspectives and look ahead to potential future moves as the Flames position themselves for the playoffs and the Canadiens begin to rebuild.

With the NHL trade deadline still over a month away, Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving struck early in picking up Tyler Toffoli, one of the top potential goal scorers who could be moved by March 21.

The Flames weren't hiding the fact they would be targeting a scoring winger this season, so with the team on a six-game winning streak, first in the Pacific Division by points percentage and third in the Western Conference, the GM wanted to reward his players and signal belief that this team will be Canada's breakthrough.

"We've got a long ways to go yet," Treliving said. "But you do take your cues from the team, and the players have done their job, it was time for me to do mine. Part of that is giving them some help. I think if you ask any player they like their team and when you can give them some help it's well received. The way we've been playing, I felt it was time to give them some help."

Calgary has the third-best goal differential in the league, second-best team save percentage and goals-against average, and seventh-best shots against per game rate. All of these measures place them atop Canadian team rankings. It's not that their offence has been bad -- eighth-best in the league in goals, second in shots for, with some of the best line combos of the first half. It's that if you wanted to upgrade this team, you would want another scoring option on the wing for three-line depth at even strength and to perhaps boost their 13th-ranked power play.

The first trade of considerable consequence in the NHL since Buffalo moved Jack Eichel to Vegas in November, it's not lost that Toffoli will join his new team just as Eichel prepares to hop into the Golden Knights' lineup for the first time. Though Vegas and Calgary don't meet again until April, they figure to be locked in a heated divisional race until then -- Vegas is getting its needed upgrade (at the temporary cost of losing Mark Stone to injury) down the middle, while Calgary picks up the 26th-highest goal scorer of the past two years.

By moving early the Flames don't get as much help against the cap as they would have by waiting another few weeks (Tyler Pitlick's salary had to be moved to Montreal) but the GM couldn't risk not getting an impact player who'll be under contract for another two years anyway -- and one he said he's been interested in since Toffoli's draft year.

"The challenge with this deal at this time, a month ahead of the deadline, is if you wait you accrue more space, there was some cap flex you had to go through here, but we felt we wanted to get the deal," Treliving said. "We didn't want him going anywhere else."

There are many reasons why this seems like a great move for the Flames in their bid to do some playoff damage. If you're worried about how any deadline moves could adversely affect chemistry, that's probably not an issue here. Toffoli won a Stanley Cup in Los Angeles under coach Darryl Sutter, played for associate coach Kirk Muller in Montreal last season, was in Vancouver with Jacob Markstrom and Christopher Tanev, and played a year in L.A. with Milan Lucic. He even played a couple years in major junior with Sean Monahan. Toffoli's even familiar with the Pacific Division competition since he's played this circuit nearly his whole career. As Treliving noted, there's not going to a "get to know ya" phase here.

As far as how the lineup works out, we'll get a first idea of what Sutter is thinking at Tuesday practice since he didn't commit to anything on Monday. Sutter did say of Toffoli he's a "winner, two position player, 200-foot, scores goals, kills penalties, can play on the power play, is a good player."

So the options are aplenty.

Does Toffoli go on the second line right side and move Andrew Mangiapane down to the third, or does Toffoli start on the third? Will Sutter instead consider using him on the left side, and especially load up the top two lines? Is this the trade that will move Monahan off his place on the top power play unit? However it works out, the Flames see the addition of another do-it-all-type player who, most importantly, fills a need in a lot of areas.

"The goal scoring gets talked about a lot and he's one of those guys he just has that gift right?" Treliving said. "Some people need four, five six whacks, he usually just needs one. But what doesn't get talked enough about is his all-around game. To me he's a top-six forward in the league. On teams he's played on he's been a top penalty killer. He plays both wings. Plays the power play. Touches both sides of special teams. You look at the data on him too, the ability to drive play, shot volume and also shot suppression is strong. Yes he's made his living because he can shoot it in the net, but he does a lot more."

Surely this will complicate other decisions facing the Flames in the summer, when Mangiapane, Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk are all in need of extensions. There's a little less money to work with on those for now, but they are problems for another day.

It's time to start thinking of the Flames as a playoff threat, and maybe not so much as a dark horse. The coming weeks will tell us for sure what the Flames are and how they arrive at the post-season. But their GM gave the all-in sign on Monday, elevating an area of need early in deadline season at reasonable cost.

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