The Calgary Flames added a new face on Monday, but also a familiar face to many.
The acquisition of forward, Tyler Toffoli, in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens reunites the 29-year-old with his old coach, Darryl Sutter, who he won the Stanley Cup with in 2014 while in Los Angeles. Milan Lucic, Trevor Lewis and Brad Richardson are former Kings teammates. Toffoli also played alongside Jacob Markstrom and Chris Tanev while with Vancouver.
Toffoli was also roommates with Sean Monahan when they played major junior for the Ottawa 67s.
“Honestly, I think I know half of the guys on the team and the guys I don’t know, I’ve already gotten a text from,” said Toffoli, who will arrive in Calgary from Montreal on Monday night.
The Flames play back-to-back home games against the Columbus Blue Jackets and Anaheim Ducks beginning Tuesday.
“It’s one of those things where you kind of know something’s happening,” Toffoli said. “I’m excited for the opportunity to be coming to Calgary and coming to a really good hockey team.”
Going the other way in the deal was Swedish prospect Emil Heinemann, a 2022 first-round pick (top-10 protected), a 2023 fifth-round selection and winger Tyler Pitlick, who has zero goals and two assists in 25 games this season and been a healthy scratch the past 11 games.
“He’s a good friend of mine, so obviously it’s nice when you know the guy coming in,” said Lucic. “I was actually with him last weekend in the all-star break. I had no idea I was going to see him this soon.”
Toffoli leaves the Canadiens midway through his second season with Montreal, where he had signed a four-year, $17-million deal as a free agent in October 2020.
“There’s so much to remember, even outside of the hockey. The city is beautiful. I loved it, my wife loves it. So, it’s definitely emotional,” Toffoli said. “But at the end of the day, it’s a business and we both knew that there’s a chance that I could be getting moved.”
It’s been two seasons of extremes for Toffoli. After going to the Stanley Cup final last season, the Canadiens are last this year, having won only two of their last 25 games.
“It’s frustrating, we came into the season with high expectations and it essentially felt like everything that could go wrong basically has gone wrong,” said Toffoli. “I’ll definitely remember last year and how everybody was doubting us and we kept proving everybody wrong and we just came up a little bit short.”
Toffoli is joining one of the hottest teams in the NHL. The Flames have won six in a row and eight of their last nine, which has moved them within one of Vegas, with Calgary has three games in hand.
In Calgary, he will be brought in to help an offence that most of the season has been reliant on the top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, and Matthew Tkachuk, who are all on pace for career-best seasons.
With the second line of Andrew Mangiapane, Mikael Backlund, and Blake Coleman playing their best hockey during this current winning streak, the void on the right side has been after that.
Recently the Flames have had rugged winger Brett Ritchie playing with Monahan and Dillon Dube. The trio has struggled to generate offence and Ritchie doesn’t have a point in 24 games.
Toffoli comes over with 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) in 37 games this season, and coming off a year in which he scored 28 times in 52 games.
With another five weeks to go before the NHL’s March 21 trade deadline, by acting now, the Flames get nearly half a season of Tofolli this year in addition to the two years remaining on his deal.
“I’ve never been a huge trade deadline guy,” said Treliving. “It’s like rush-hour traffic, it’s five lanes merging into one, the closer you get to it. So, if you can get out in front of it. That’s a preference of mine.”
Sutter said adding a player with his pedigree is huge.
“It’s very important. Experience is one thing, winning experience is totally different,” said the Flames head coach.
Adding a $4.25M annual commitment to the team’s payroll for the next couple seasons comes at a time when the team is already facing a salary cap crunch. Gaudreau is in the last year of his contract and will be an unrestricted free agent. Tkachuk is a restricted agent after this season and is in need of a new deal, as is the team’s leading goal scorer, Mangiapane.
“This certainly wasn’t done in any sort of vacuum,” said Treliving. “You’re looking at today, but you always have to keep tomorrow in mind. We certainly know what’s on our plate for tomorrow — John, Matthew, Andrew, we know where their contract situations are, those guys are huge pieces of our team and we want to get them all signed.”