Tyler Toffoli has been one of the better players for the New Jersey Devils in the 2023-24 season. Added to the team via trade with Calgary, Toffoli was expected to slot in to a Top 6 role and make a deep Devils forward group even deeper, He came out of the gate hot, cooled off for a bit and then began to heat up personally again even as the team stumbled into the All-Star break. His 21 goals lead the team and he slots in third currently with 34 points in 47 appearances.
Even with this individual success, the Devils have faltered, due to injuries and poor play as we’ve discussed here at length. With Toffoli set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and the Devils in danger of missing the playoffs, they need to make a decision about what to do. Toffoli has said he would be open to an extension, and he has been a nice complementary piece for the team. On the other hand, he is on the wrong side of 30 and might be looking for one last long-term deal. So what should the Devils do?
If the Devils are out of the playoff race, Toffoli’s usefulness to the team diminishes drastically. He was brought on to be a goal scoring weapon after said scoring dried up quite a bit against Carolina last postseason. The Devils still have enough of a veteran presence without Toffoli thanks to players like Ondrej Palat who was specifically brought in to fill that role. This isn’t to say the Devils should be giving Toffoli away, as he is still a useful scoring forward, but better to recoup an asset or two rather than risk him walking in the summer for nothing if his contract ask is beyond what the Devils are willing to offer.
Additionally, Toffoli has one glaring weakness in his game when compared to his teammates: his skating. Now, I will say I’ve watched him work his backside off to try and backcheck on a number of plays this season, but he’s still been a bit out of sync with his linemates at times. Again, he’s not the worst skater in the NHL, rather he just doesn’t mesh with the mentality of the team as a whole. He’s been a good complimentary piece, but if his negotiations would affect the team’s long term cap structure, they may have to move on and look for help elsewhere, be it internally or externally this summer.
Scoring wingers aren’t the most uncommon thing in the NHL, but they aren’t always easy to find either. Toffoli on an underperforming Devils team right now is on pace to finish out the season with 37 goals. The Devils are currently tied for 11th in scoring overall in the league; without Toffoli’s contributions, they would find themselves all the way down in a tie for 25th. That’s quite a drop off based on one player’s contributions. You could of course argue that someone would replace what Toffoli has brought, but when you look at some of the players who have been regulars for New Jersey this season, you start to realize maybe that isn’t the case.
Toffoli has had a cold spell or two, but shooters go streaky at times. The positives outweigh the negatives though; he speed hasn’t cost the team that badly, especially when you consider the number of defensemen the team employs that don’t have foot speed issues that are making worse coverage mistakes. Toffoli isn’t the perfect NHL player, but who is? He has his warts, but he’s been a solid contributor and an overall positive for a struggling Devils team.
My Thoughts and You Take
I think my opinion here depends on what contract Toffoli is looking for. Reasonable deal with a few years of term? Yeah, I could go for that. Too much money and/or too many years? Let him walk. Like I said before, pure goal scorers don’t grow on trees, but the Devils also can’t make the mistake of tying up too much cap in a player who could decline as the contract continues on. I think even if we need to concede a little term or money, we should do it, as Toffoli has been a good complementary piece for us.
What are your thoughts on the contract situation for Tyler Toffoli; do you want to see the Devils extend him or do you think they will need to trade him? Do yo think he’s been a good fit in his time with the team so far? Do you worry about the possible contract he could command? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!