Top News

Ed Willes: Canucks believe trade for Toffoli is a message to win now, worry later

New Canuck Tyler Toffoli, right, acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings, works out with his new Vancouver teammates on Tuesday at Rogers Arena.
New Canuck Tyler Toffoli, right, acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings, works out with his new Vancouver teammates on Tuesday at Rogers Arena.

In the aftermath of Jim Benning’s bold stroke, there were a number of opinions expressed concerning the price of acquiring Tyler Toffoli, the wisdom of said acquisition and its deeper meaning in the Canucks’ universe.

That’s fine. It’s why the hockey gods created the comments section on Twitter.

But while Trader Jim is aware there will be blowback arising from the trade that brought Toffoli from the Los Angeles Kings — just as he’s aware this move could be disastrous for both the organization and his long-term job security — his only concern is the reaction from a small focus group that resides in the Canucks’ locker room.

That group could care less about the cost, the cap implications or any of the other issues raised by this deal. For them, there’s only one relevant point to consider: We got Toffoli.

Sweet.

“It’s a huge message,” said Jay Beagle. “Right now is the key. It’s a huge boost for us. To get a top-six guy is a big statement.”

OK, over to you Tyler Myers.

“I know from playing against Tyler what kind of player he is and I think we’re adding one helluva player. That’s exciting for the guys in the room right now. That’s what we’re focused on.”

And if you needed further convincing, here’s Troy Stecher: “You don’t look at the other pieces, like the second-rounder. For us to say we got Toffoli, who we know is a really good player, is huge.”

Toffoli, as you may be aware, arrives at a critical point in the Canucks’ season, if not Benning’s five years in the big office. With the team in a Texas death match for a playoff spot in the West, the Canucks awoke to news this week that Brock Boeser would be out for at least eight weeks, Micheal Ferland was being shut down for the season with concussion-related problems and Josh Leivo was likely gone for the season with a fractured kneecap.

If you’re scoring at home, that’s three of the forwards who were projected to play in the Canucks’ top nine this season, and with every game of vital importance, Benning couldn’t sit back and hope the existing cast could carry the Canucks into the postseason.

Enter Toffoli, a gritty two-way right-winger who won a Cup with the Kings in 2014, has averaged 22 goals per 82 games over eight NHL seasons and is besties with Canucks winger Tanner Pearson. Yes, he’s an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, but let’s address one problem at a time, people.

“This gives our team a chance to remain in the pack and compete for a playoff spot,” Benning said. “That’s our goal.”

And maybe it’s that simple for Benning and the Canucks. You just know it’s never that simple for Benning and the Canucks.

This trade was consummated Monday evening, but its seeds were planted two summers ago when the Aquilini ownership group rejected Trevor Linden’s vision for a rebuild and endorsed Benning’s. Linden told the owners it will take four years for the Canucks to challenge in the West. Benning said it could be done in a tighter window.

The Aquilinis liked the sound of Benning’s plan better.

Since then, a number of moves have been made with the playoffs in mind, most notably the trade that brought J.T. Miller from Tampa in the off-season for a first- and third-rounder. Suddenly, a draft-and-develop organization became a win-now organization, and while we can kick that one around, those moves had the desired effect.

For the past eight weeks the Canucks have hovered at or near the top of the Pacific Division.

Then came the injuries. Admittedly, Leivo and Ferland have been out for much of the season, but the loss of Boeser 10 days ago brought things to a head. Toffoli, one of the prize baubles available at this year’s trade deadline, clearly fills a need and sends a message to the Canucks and the faithful: Making the playoffs this season is the only thing that matters.

If the cost is a good prospect in Tyler Madden and a second-round draft pick, so be it.


NEXT GAME

Wednesday

Minnesota Wild vs. Vancouver Canucks

7:30 p.m., Rogers Arena , TV: Sportsnet Pacific; Radio: Sportsnet 650 AM


“When you haven’t made the playoffs in four years, I call it the black hole and you have to fight and scratch your way out of that,” Benning said.

“I don’t think it’s a change of philosophy. But sometimes you have to look at where you are as an organization, and I think we’re in the fight here to make the playoffs. I wanted to do what I could do to help the team get over the top.”

Black hole, he said.

Jimbo, as it happens, was feeling it all the way around on Tuesday. In addition to the news about Boeser’s injury, he dropped a couple of other nuggets on the assembled newshounds. He said the Canucks have, “conservatively,” seven prospects who’ll make the team in the next two to three years, and that made Madden expendable.

One of those prospects is Zack MacEwen, who Benning says has established himself as an NHL player.

Of the decision to fill Boeser’s spot from Utica, the GM said that was considered, but the player the Canucks were eyeing was Reid Boucher and not Sven Baertschi.

The Canucks, as it happens, had been relatively lucky with injuries this season. That stood in contrast to the last four years when injuries scuttled any playoff chances they might have entertained, no matter how fleeting.

After making it through to February this season, it was in danger of happening again. But this year’s Canucks are a different animal. This team deserved the chance to drive for the playoffs with a fully functioning roster.

Toffoli gives them that chance. The black hole is on notice.


WHITE TOWEL PODCAST

Ed Willes joins Paul Chapman to talk about the current state of the Canucks — including the relative wisdom of the Toffoli deal, Boeser’s woes, who the MVP candidates are, and a look back at Sedins Week.

Listen and subscribe to our podcast from your mobile device:

via Apple podcasts | via TuneIn | via Spotify | via Stitcher

Is the player not working? Click here.


ewilles@postmedia.com

twitter.com/willesonsports


CLICK HERE to report a typo.

Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email vantips@postmedia.com .

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

Recent Stories