New Jersey Devils Add Toffoli, Scoring Depth, But It’s Still Not Enough

CALGARY, CANADA - APRIL 2: Tyler Toffoli #73 of the Calgary Flames in action against the Anaheim Ducks during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on April 2, 2023 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The Flames defeated the Ducks 5-4. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
CALGARY, CANADA - APRIL 2: Tyler Toffoli #73 of the Calgary Flames in action against the Anaheim Ducks during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on April 2, 2023 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The Flames defeated the Ducks 5-4. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images) /

The New Jersey Devils trade Sharangovich, 2023 3rd Round Pick to the Calgary Flames for goal-scorer, Tyler Toffoli.Following their first Stanley Cup Playoffs appearance in a decade, the New Jersey Devils added more firepower to their offense as GM Tom Fitzgerald acquired veteran goal-scorer, Tyler Toffoli, from the Calgary Flames in exchange for bottom-six forward Yegor Sharangovich and a 3rd Round draft selection in the since passed 2023 NHL Draft (used to select Aydar Suniev).

On paper, the Devils look to be the “winners” of this trade, as they add a pure sniper to be used in the middle of their lineup on offense, as well as the triggerman on the second power-play unit, a role that New Jersey was missing for the entirety of the 2022-23 NHL season. The team has a seemingly unlimited stockpile of quality playmakers in their system, but goal scorers have been hard to come by. Bringing in Toffoli was a move that needed to happen.

As for the Calgary Flames, they’re receiving a young center in Sharangovich who could use a change of pace in coaching and scenery in order to unlock the potential of being a second-line center in the NHL. However, even if he’s not able to meet that ceiling, his floor is solidified as a bottom-six center who can contribute to special teams and produce in crucial moments.

31-year old right wing Tyler Toffoli finished the 2022-23 campaign with 34 goals, 39 assists, and 73 total points in a full 82 games played for a Calgary Flames team that fell well below expectations. The trade for Jonathan Huberdeau in exchange for Matthew Tkachuk and MacKenzie Weegar last season clearly backfired as the Flames finished the season with a 38-27-17 record, missing the playoffs and ending with the termination of Daryl Suter’s contract as head coach.

Due to the team’s unpredicted success this past season, ‘Jersey was able to take the next step in their rebuild process by extending their cornerstone players to long-term contract extensions. Star forwards Jesper Bratt and Timo Meier were both signed to 8-year contract extensions, keeping them in the black and red for the foreseeable future alongside Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier.

The Devils were also able to bring unsung hero and face-off wizard, Michael McLeod, back into the fold for next season under a 1-year deal paying $1.4M in 2023-24. Given his impressive performance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, showcasing his blistering speed and grit, re-signing McLeod was imperative for Fitzgerald and the organization.

With the 2023 NHL Draft, as well as the first wave of unrestricted free agency in the books, the New Jersey Devils have been rather quiet in comparison to their adversaries in the Metropolitan Division as the Carolina Hurricanes and the New York Rangers have both been very active in signing free agents this summer, respectively.

Is trading for Tyler Toffoli the height of the New Jersey Devils’ 2023 off-season moves?

While adding Toffoli will no doubt lead to an improved power play unit, as well as provide a dangerous depth scoring threat in even-strength play, there’s one facet of the game that the New Jersey Devils need to focus on addressing for the remainder of the summer, and it comes down to grit.

As seen in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the most physical and gritty teams are the teams that go the farthest. The hockey world was blinded by all of the flashy plays and skill moves from the regular season, most notably by Anaheim Ducks phenom, Trevor Zegras. When the playoffs came around, everyone realized that in order to win the Stanley Cup, you need a Ryan Reaves, Pat Maroon, Sam Bennet, and Ivan Barbashev of the NHL in your lineup.

When the New Jersey Devils faced the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes in their respective series, the small skaters on the Devils simply couldn’t match the physicality of their opponent and were often knocked off of the puck as a result. Because of this, it’s time that the Devs go back to the tried and tested methods of years gone by. To do so, they need to add more physicality, more toughness, and more grinders to truly make it feel like you’re entering the Devil’s lair when you play at ‘the Rock’.

The one part about ice hockey that remains constant throughout the years is that no matter how skill based the game becomes, you will always need players who are willing to go into the dirty areas, players who are willing to hit and get hit to make a play, and players who will stand in front of the net facing cross checks and slashes from all angles with a chip on their shoulder.

New Jersey made a good start in composing a line of Nate Bastian, Michael McLeod, and Miles Wood to generate that spark from the bottom six of the lineup this past season, but with Miles Wood now gone after having been signed by the Colorado Avalanche in free agency, the Devils need to address this dire need. They have as much skill as they could ever want considering some of the genuine superstars that are developing in Newark, NJ. It’s time to start adding muscle to protect these players so ‘Jersey can impose their will upon any team who tries to eye them up.

In order for the New Jersey Devils to continue to build off of the incredible and unforeseeable success that they achieved in the 2022-23 NHL regular season, they will need to add at least two players on offense who can fill the role of being the spark plug. The kind of player they need is someone who gets the bench fired up by a big hit, strong forecheck, or impressive puck battle in the corner.

This isn’t reinventing the wheel, but rather it’s simplifying the nature of the game. More beef and grit means less physical demand on the skill guys like Jack Hughes. The addition of goal-scorer Tyler Toffoli solves a lot of problems for New Jersey, but the more freedom Jack and Co. have to make plays in open ice without having to worry about physicality will only make this team a bigger threat in the Eastern Conference.

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