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]
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.