It’s been a rough offseason for the Canucks so far

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Monday’s Tyler Toffoli signing wasn’t just a big deal for the Montreal Canadiens.

It was also significant for the Vancouver Canucks because it means that Toffoli no longer plays for them. That makes him the latest player to exit the team during what has been — so far — a very frustrating offseason.

The Canucks entered the offseason coming off of their most successful season in nearly a decade. They made the Stanley Cup Playoffs, won their play-in round series against Minnesota, knocked off the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues in the First Round, and then took another Stanley Cup contender (Vegas Golden Knights) to a seventh game in the Second Round.

They also have one of the best young cores in the league with Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, and Quinn Hughes at the top of the lineup, all of whom excelled in the biggest games this postseason.

There should be a lot of optimism here. But almost everything that has happened this offseason for Vancouver has been some kind of a loss.

[Related: Tyler Toffoli signs with Montreal Canadiens]

The only exception to that is probably the signing of goalie Braden Holtby on the opening day of free agency, bringing in the Stanley Cup winning veteran to share the net with Thatcher Demko.

A quick rundown of everything that has happened after that.

  • They failed to complete a trade for Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson before his deadline (he has a no-trade clause and can determine when and where he goes). Some might look at that as a win depending on what you think of Ekman-Larsson’s contract, but…
  • The failure to complete that trade, combined with the free agency departures of Chris Tanev and Troy Stecher, has left them with some significant question marks on defense after Hughes and Alexander Edler.
  • They lost Toffoli after trading a draft pick and a prospect for him at the deadline and getting just 17 games out of him. That was always going to be a risk, but it still has to hurt.
  • That means since the end of the postseason they have lost Jacob Markstrom, Toffoli, Tanev, and Stecher and only replaced them — as of now — with Holtby.

Toffoli is the one that is going to hurt the most because he was the sort of player they could have really used long-term.

There is a significant drop-off in talent from the Canucks’ top-four forwards to the rest of the roster, and in his limited time with the team Toffoli looked like he could have been a perfect complement to that core group.

It is possible that salary cap limitations played a role, as the Canucks currently sit with just a little over $7 million in cap space remaining. They still have restricted free agent Jake Virtanen to re-sign and still need to fill out the rest of their defense following the departures of Tanev and Stecher.

But even if that is the case, it is just another reminder as to how a bunch of little mistakes over time can add up into a big problem.

Keep in mind, the Canucks are currently paying Loui Eriksson ($6 million) and Brandon Sutter ($4.3 million) more than Toffoli is going to make for Montreal. When you add in the $3 million per year contracts for bottom-sixers like Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel, it just makes things even tougher. The concern with those deals at the time was they were overpaying for players that they probably didn’t need, and that it could eventually cause headaches down the road. It seemingly has.

The Canucks are in a situation now where they are going to have to deal with a salary cap crunch in the short-term despite the fact that 1) their best players are still relatively cheap, and 2) they do not have a single player on the team that makes more than $6 million per season. A team should not be this pressed against the cap given those two circumstances.

That crunch helped cost them a really good player and has left just another hole on the roster that is going to be tough to fill.

Things are not going to get any easier next offseason when they have to re-sign Pettersson and Hughes to potentially massive contracts, while also still filling out the rest of the roster.

It is still early in the offseason, but they are not going to find a better player than Toffoli for a better price on the open market, while there is not much left to pick over on defense.

Tough way to follow up the most promising season the team has had in years.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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    Stars sign 41-goal scorer Jason Robertson to 4-year, $31M deal

    Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
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    FRISCO, Texas — Jason Robertson signed a four-year, $31 million contract with the Dallas Stars after the young 40-goal scorer missed the first two weeks of training camp.

    The Stars announced the deal after their exhibition game in Denver, only a week before the regular season opener Oct. 13 at Nashville.

    Robertson turned 23 soon after the end of last season, when the left wing had 41 goals and 38 assists for 79 points in his 74 games. His 13 power-play goals led the team. Robertson joined Hockey Hall of Famer Mike Modano, Jamie Benn, and Tyler Seguin as the only 40-goal scorers since the franchise moved to Dallas in 1993.

    “Jason is an integral part of the present and future of our team and we’re thrilled to have him for the next four years,” general manager Jim Nill said.

    A second-round draft pick (39th overall) by the Stars in 2017, Robertson has 125 points (58 goals, 67 assists) in his 128 NHL games. The 6-foot-3 California native had one goal and three assists in his first postseason action last season, when Dallas lost its first-round playoff series in seven games against Calgary.

    “Since he was drafted by our organization, he has worked tirelessly to become a better player every day. His knack for scoring goals and seeing plays develop on the ice are just some of the tremendous assets that he brings to our team,” Nill said. “He is one of the best young players in the NHL, and we look forward to seeing him continue to progress.”

    Robertson had the second-highest point total for a Stars rookie in 2020-21, when he had 45 points (17 goals, 28 assists) in his 51 games.

    Before the start of this season’s camp, new coach Pete DeBoer said he looked forward to coaching Robertson.

    “Listen, I laid awake at night with the excitement of coaching Jason Robertson, 40-plus goals, but he’s not here,” DeBoer said then. “So, you know, until he gets here, I can’t spend any energy on that.”

    Robertson will finally be there now.

    Coaching carousel leaves 10 NHL teams with new face on bench

    Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
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    The coaching carousel spun a little faster than usual across the NHL, meaning nearly a third of the league will have someone new behind the bench this season. And not just bottom-feeders making changes.

    Ten teams go into the season next month with a new coach, from Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida and perennial playoff-contending Boston to rebuilding Chicago and San Jose.

    John Tortorella will try to whip Philadelphia into shape, Bruce Cassidy is tasked with getting Vegas back to the playoffs and Derek Lalonde takes his two Stanley Cup rings as a Tampa Bay assistant to his new challenge with the Detroit Red Wings.

    TORTS REFORM

    Philadelphia players knew they were in for some changes when Tortorella was hired, so they asked Cam Atkinson, who spent six years playing for the no-nonsense coach in Columbus.

    “I keep telling them like he’s a guy that’s going to change the whole dynamic of this organization,” Atkinson said.

    Tortorella has not shied away from saying a culture change is needed after a last-place finish and a decade with one playoff series win. There is likely not much he and players can do this year about a Cup drought that dates to 1975, but they can start with maddeningly inconsistent stretches of games that have plagued the Flyers for years, no matter the roster.

    BIG MO

    The Panthers were the league’s best team in the regular season last year but struggled in the playoffs before losing in the second round to cross-state rival Tampa Bay in five games. That was enough for general manager Bill Zito to decide to move on from interim coach Andrew Brunette and hired seasoned veteran Paul Maurice.

    The expectation is to get back to the playoffs and compete for the Cup, and having Maurice at the helm was one of the factors that made power forward Matthew Tkachuk pick Florida as his trade-and-sign destination.

    “He’s got high hopes for our team,” Tkachuk said. “He sees us playing in a certain way that’s going to make us successful. And he’s done it. He’s been around the NHL a long time, been a very successful head coach and somebody that I’m really looking forward to working with.”

    PLAYOFF ROTATION

    Bruins GM Don Sweeney fired Cassidy after a seven-game loss to Carolina in the first round despite Boston’s sixth consecutive playoff appearance.

    Vegas had already fired Peter DeBoer, making him the scapegoat for an injury-riddled fall from the top of the Western Conference that ended with the team’s first playoff miss in five years of existence. The Golden Knights quickly turned to Cassidy, who like Maurice brings experience and gravitas to a franchise with championship aspirations.

    “I think we’re very fortunate as an organization to have him as our coach,” center Jack Eichel said. “Every single person I’ve spoke to about them, they said the same thing: that he’s got a really, really great knack for the game and to able to make adjustments and he understands things. Very, very competitive — wants to win, has won a lot of hockey games over the last few years.”

    The Bruins replaced Cassidy with Jim Montgomery, a hockey lifer getting a second chance after being fired by Dallas in December 2019 for inappropriate conduct. Montgomery sought and received help at a rehab facility and got a big endorsement from the staff with St. Louis, the team he was working for as an assistant.

    “He’s a winner,” Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman said. “I think guys are going to thrive on that energy.”

    The Stars completed the circle by hiring DeBoer, who has coached two teams (New Jersey in 2012 and San Jose in 2016) to the final and is on his fifth stop around the league.

    “This is a tough league and it’s a tough one to coach in and you have to be able to handle situations,” GM Jim Nill said. “I know Pete can do it.”

    LAMBERT ISLAND

    Lane Lambert served as an assistant under Barry Trotz with Nashville, Washington – where they won the Cup together – and the Islanders. When Trotz was abruptly fired after New York missed the playoffs for the first time in his four seasons on the job, his right-hand man got the gig with his endorsement.

    Longtime executive Lou Lamoriello thought his team needed a new voice. But Lambert isn’t that new, and his familiarity with the Islanders keeps some continuity.

    “Barry was great for our team, and having Lane as an assistant, he had lots of say, as well,” forward Mathew Barzal said. “As a group, we all have a good relationship with him, so I think it’ll be an easy transition for our team.”

    MORE NEW VOICES

    The final coaching change of the offseason came in San Jose, with ownership and interim management firing Bob Boughner and his assistants before Mike Grier took over as GM. Grier hired David Quinn, who most recently coached the U.S. at the Beijing Olympics after spending three years with the Rangers.

    Rick Bowness, the Stars’ interim coach when Montgomery was fired who helped them reach the final in 2020 and was not brought back, joined Winnipeg. He immediately made an impact by stripping Blake Wheeler of the Jets captaincy.

    The other new coaches – Lalonde in Detroit and Luke Richardson in Chicago – are not expected to make such big waves.

    Richardson, who briefly was acting coach for Montreal during the 2021 final when Dominique Ducharme tested positive for the coronavirus, is overseeing the start of a long-term rebuild by the Blackhawks. Lalonde was Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman’s pick to help end the storied franchise’s playoff drought.

    “He believes in what he’s preaching, which I think is great walking into a new locker room,” captain Dylan Larkin said. “He’s made a great impression on the guys.”

    Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

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    Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

    The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

    Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

    “We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

    Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

    “I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

    Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

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    OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

    The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

    Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

    The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

    Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.