New Jersey Devils General Manager Tom Fitzgerald had himself a day today. Hours after sending pending restricted free agent goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood to San Jose, he made another trade. A significant one. He sent pending restricted free agent forward Yegor Sharangovich and Calgary’s third round pick (80th overall) in 2023 - acquired from the Damon Severson sign-and-trade to Columbus - to the Calgary Flames for forward Tyler Toffoli. Yes, Fitzgerald essentially moved two pending out-of-contract players for an experienced forward still under contract for next season. For that alone, you should like this deal.
You should also like it because Tyler Toffoli is a really good hockey player. The 31-year old right-shooting right winger is coming off a career year of 34 goals, 39 assists, and 73 points with the Flames - which included a career high of 25 power play points. Normally, he’s good for about 40 points based on his past seasons with Los Angeles (and 10 games with Vancouver), Montreal, and Calgary. Yet, his production may not just drop off a cliff. He shot well at 12.7% but it was far from previous season highs in shooting percentage. He shot the puck a lot last season; 268 to be precise. He may not shoot the puck that much in New Jersey, but he may not need to depending on how he slots into the lineup. He will be easy to find; he will wear #73 after all.
What happens on the ice is where Toffoli’s value truly lies. Per Natural Stat Trick, he finished third on the Flames in 5-on-5 xGF% at 59.33% and has other on-ice percentages ranging from 57 to 59% - which is excellent on a strong 5-on-5 team in Calgary last season. He has had several strong 5-on-5 on-ice rates in his past, such as his first four full seasons in LA, his last two seasons in LA, and his 2021 season in Montreal. He is a responsible forward who is capable on the power play (see: 25 power play points last season) and can do some light PK work in a pinch. If you prefer some pictures to go with those numbers, check out this Tweet from Shayna Goldman of The Athletic:
Tyler Toffoli is a great cost-effective scorer for the Devils, who absolutely fits their needs. Really big win for New Jersey here. pic.twitter.com/Yj2EfmYGp2— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) June 27, 2023
And this tweet from the twins at Evolving-Hockey:
Tyler Toffoli didn't want to spend another day in Alberta...so he has been sent to Newark. pic.twitter.com/BKeLpZxLqW— Evolving-Hockey (@EvolvingHockey) June 27, 2023
And this tweet from Andy & Rono:
The New Jersey Devils have acquired Tyler Toffoli from the Calgary Flames in exchange for Yegor Sharangovich & 80th overall draft pick. That's another great trade by Fitzgerald, who is definitely TOP5 GM in the NHL in our eyes. Toffoli is a legit TOP6 winger with great cap hit. pic.twitter.com/zXV226JvgZ— Andy & Rono (@ARHockeyStats) June 28, 2023
If there is a bit of a concern about Toffoli, it is mentioned by Corey Sznajder in his micro-stat comparison of the two players:
Devils trade an RFA for a goal-scorer. Toffoli is slow but NJ has other guys who can carry the puck & set him up. Sharangovich is quicker but a little more one-dimensional offensively. pic.twitter.com/E8msY0qsdA— Corey Sznajder (@ShutdownLine) June 28, 2023
If true that Tyler Toffoli is not that fast, then that could be an issue. Part of the reason why Yegor Sharangovich lost his place in the lineup was the perception and somewhat reality that he could not keep up with the Devils fast pace of play. Sharangovich has a very good shot, he is good off the puck - enough to kill penalties, and he can be a compliment to skilled players. But he was on the outs because of consistency issues, which does include his actual hustle. If Toffoli struggles to keep up with Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, Timo Meier, Dawson Mercer, or Jack Hughes, then that could be an issue. The others can help Toffoli along but if they have to slow down to do it, then it only helps an opposition’s defense deal with the Devils’ attack.
That said, if he can keep up, then this is all good. Imagine that top six I just mentioned. The combination of those six is absolutely tantalizing. It also would mean Ondrej Palat and Erik Haula can create a very responsible third line. Toffoli’s power play numbers may not reach 25 points in a season again, but he is a far better option on a power play unit such that we do not need to see the likes of Erik Haula or Miles Wood (is he the next to be dealt?) on one.
I like Sharangovich and I am happy he became a massive success out of the 2018 NHL Draft. That success has not changed. He is still a good player in his own right. But it has become clear, especially in this season, that he was not in the Devils’ long-term plans going forward. When I wrote up his RFA profile, I stated that I think the best case scenario for both the player and team would be a trade. Sharangovich would fit better in another organization; one that was not looking to play a very up tempo offense. Fitzgerald not only made a trade, but he took advantage of a developing fire sale out of Calgary. It remains to be seen how Sharangovich will fit in Calgary’s tactics for 2023-24 but it is a change of scenery.
Calgary’s new GM Craig Conroy may not like the fact that multiple players have made it clear they do not want to stay beyond next season (Noah Hanifin, Mikael Backlund, Elias Lindholm, and Toffoli). But he can appreciate saving a bit of money in signing a younger winger in Sharangovich than keeping Toffoli’s $4.25 million on the books for one more season. A cap hit that belies Toffoli’s actual salary of $3.5 million for 2023-24 - which could be a starting point should he be extended in New Jersey. Which is something he does want and apparently did not get in Calgary.
As it stands, the Devils enter the NHL Draft tomorrow with 5 pending RFAs and 4 pending UFAs, which includes Jonathan Bernier. The Devils now have $19 million in cap space and possibly half of that may already be earmarked for Timo Meier. I would expect the acquisition of Toffoli may also signal the end of Tomas Tatar. Given that Tatar did not show up for the media portion of the breakdown day after the playoff elimination, I would not surprised if he moves on. Given what Fitzgerald has done with Severson, Blackwood, and now Sharangovich, do not be shocked if another pending free agent or two gets dealt before Saturday. It may not be for another player of Toffoli’s caliber, but it could be something.
It will be up to Toffoli in this coming season as to whether or not he gets a new deal in New Jersey beyond 2024. He is coming off a career season in terms of production and he will turn 32 a couple of weeks after the 2023-24 regular season ends. The Devils will have to understand those factors and try to avoid an overpayment in terms of money and/or term. Yet, as we saw with Erik Haula earlier this week, an extension is possible with a season full of good performances. Something Toffoli has been doing throughout his career. Again, he is a right-shooting right winger who has tournament experience: 88 playoff games, a Cup with Los Angeles in 2014, the World Championship with Canada in 2015 and 2023. He can provide the desired secondary scoring while helping a lot to push play forward and playing with the Devils’ top forwards. The Devils absolutely got better with this trade even with the concern about Toffoli’s speed. All it took was Sharangovich, a player that was on the trade block, and Calgary’s own third round pick, which was acquired for Severson, who was not going to be re-signed in New Jersey anyway. That is an excellent trade for the Devils. A far better deal to get Toffoli from Calgary than the one Calgary made to get him on Valentine’s Day 2022 (Tyler Pitlick, Emil Heineman, a conditional 2022 first, and a 2023 fifth). Fitzgerald had a great day today in preparing his roster for the upcoming season. May he continue to make good deals for the Devils in the coming weeks.
Now that you know my late thoughts on this evening’s big trade involving the Devils, I want to know what you think. How excited are you that Tyler Toffoli is now a Devil? What do you expect him to do in his contract year in Newark? How would you line him up? Do you wish Sharangovich well in Calgary? Who, if anyone, is next to be dealt by Fitzgerald? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the Toffoli trade and Toffoli himself in the comments. Thank you for reading.