By Alex Paolozzi, March 24 2022—
On Feb. 15, Tyler Toffoli is met at the Calgary international airport and is greeted by none other than long-time friend, former teammate and current Calgary Flame, Milan Lucic. The reason being, is that Tyler Toffoli had just been acquired by the Calgary Flames on Feb. 14 ahead of the March 21 NHL trade deadline.
Recently, the Flames have been on a tear in the NHL, beating some of the leagues’ top seeded teams and had recently held a 10-game win streak in the process — which is the longest NHL game winning streak held by an individual team so far this season. The recent success of the Flames has sent Calgarians and fans alike to band together and give the city a type of pulse that can only be compared to as a “playoff hockey” type atmosphere.
The season still holds a little less than half the games to be played before the playoff race is officially decided. However, the Flames currently hold a first-place position within the Pacific Division which by no means should be overlooked. The Pacific Division includes many talented rosters and one team in particular that currently holds the two best players in the league (cough, cough Edmonton).
Despite the Flames’ success over the Oilers and the Edmonton-Calgary battle of Alberta rivalry that runs so deeply within the province, Calgary is not only the best team in Alberta this season, they may very well be the best team in the entire Western conference. That part is surely up for debate, but what cannot be disputed is that the Flames are making a serious push for the playoffs and it seems like they are finally starting to take the necessary steps that are required in order to make a run at the Cup — or at least for once to make it past the first round.
Toffoli brings a veterans’ presence both on and off the ice and may just be exactly what the Flames are looking for in terms of taking the next steps towards becoming a cup contender. The signing of Toffoli to the Flames brings less of a surprise as the 29-year-old has been coached before in the NHL by current Flames head coach Darryl Sutter back when both Sutter and Toffoli were employed as coach and player with the Los Angeles Kings.
Sutter managed to coach Toffoli during his rookie season in 2013 with the Kings, and had also won the Stanley Cup that same year. Undoubtable chemistry between the two aside, the acquisition shows that Toffoli understands and believes in what Sutter is capable of doing as a head coach, and shows that Toffoli is all-in on the Flames in their pursuit of a Stanley Cup for the city of Calgary.
Tyler Toffoli is no doubt a great choice for the Flames to add to their squad and would have been an asset on any team that he would have decided to join.
Now because of this, the Flames obviously had to give up a few things within their own organization’s walls in order to have made the move happen. In exchange for Toffoli, the Flames gave the Montréal Canadiens a 2022 first-round draft choice — which is top-10 protected — a 2024 fifth-round pick, forward Tyler Pitlick and prospect Emil Heineman.
Taking a deeper look into this trade, Heineman is a young seemingly talented forward prospect but was a late second-round pick and probably won’t go on to really do much in his career within the next 2–3 years anyways. Pitlick was a solid fourth-line guy for Calgary but has had some injury issues earlier this season, and has recently been healthy scratched a few times for the Flames and was not seeing much playing time this season.
After saying all that, the main portion of this trade that stands out in my eyes is the 2022 first-round draft pick, and was more or less the tipping point in the trade that allowed for the Flames to land such a talented player in Toffoli. A young prospect is nice to have, but the Canadiens are looking towards the future with this move.
Toffoli is now set to remain with the Flames for at least the next two seasons, and in my opinion, will be a solid forward for the Flames within that time-frame. Calgary is now, more than ever, in a “win now” sort of mentality and the addition of Toffoli is the perfect example.
Combined with his previous playoff experience, playing in the Stanley Cup Finals two times in his career and winning one alongside the current head coach of the Calgary Flames, Flames fans should be more than excited to see exactly what kind of damage this Calgary team can do in the upcoming NHL playoffs.