The Los Angeles Kings have a lot of decisions to make this off-season. The most important is one that should already be in the works: re-signing emerging star Tyler Toffoli.
Toffoli is finishing his rookie contract, a 3-year $2.88 million dollar deal according to spotrac.com.
That contract equated to a $716,666 cap-hit per season for the Kings. To put it lightly Toffoli is going to cost them a bit more going forward.
In the 2014-2015 season the now 23-year-old native of Scarborough, Ontario put up 23 goals, 26 assists, 49 points, a monster – team-leading +25 plus/minus, 3 power-play goals, 3 game-winning goals, and an NHL leading 5 short-handed goals.
Toffoli played in 76 games and finished 3rd on the Kings in goals and points. Toffoli was one of three players on the Kings to finish the season as a 20-goal scorer; the other two were Marian Gaborik (27 goals) and Toffoli’s linemate Jeff Carter (28 goals).
At the NHL level Toffoli had career highs in every statistical category except game-winning goals.
These numbers might not seem extraordinary, but many would say it was a down season for the NHL.
Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn won the Art Ross Trophy with 87 points this year. Last year’s winner was Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby with 104 points; though the second place player, Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf finished with 87 points.
2012-2013 was a shortened season due to the lockout, for that reason the leader, Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning (at the time), finished with 60 points. 2011-2012 had the top three-point scorers all over 90 points, the leader – Penguins Evgeni Malkin had 109.
As the years go further back it shows much of the same. Shot-blocking for defense has become a bigger part of the game. Be it that or another multitude of analytics scoring in the NHL is down.
None of that will matter when Kings management sits down with Toffoli and his agent.
Toffoli helped carry the Kings. He’s an emerging NHL star and future, or more accurately present, core player on the Kings roster. With his progression and development track the hope is: look at Toffoli and think St. Louis Blues Vladimir Tarasenko.May 21, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Los Angeles Kings center Tyler Toffoli (73) clears the puck in front of Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) during the third period of game two of the Western Conference Final of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center. Los Angeles won 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
The two are the same age, and both were taken in the 2010 draft. Tarasenko was drafted in the 1st round, 16th overall; Toffoli in the 2nd round, 47th overall.
Tarasenko has had a little bit better production, exploding this year with 37 goals and 73 points.Mar 24, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (91) skates with the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Tarasenko’s also a little more compensated. Tarasenko’s finishing his rookie deal: 3-year $5.52 million dollars. After bonuses and NHL calculations the it’s an annual cap hit of $900,000.
As a Restricted Free Agent the Kings still have Toffoli’s rights. So, it’s really a game of numbers for the two parties.
For the Kings who were up against the cap-limit all season, what is the outlook? What is a far deal for Toffoli?
A comparable player whose further along in his career is St. Louis Blues forward T.J. Oshie. Oshie is currently on a 5-year $20.875 million contract.
Something along those lines could be a perfect fit for both Toffoli and the Kings.
Toffoli has great chemistry with Jeff Carter, who’s going to be in L.A. for a little while (we hope), and Tanner Pearson. Pearson just signed a 2-years $2.8 million extension himself. Despite a season ending injury in January, Pearson was able to get hot early and finish 7th in goals on the Kings.
In 42 games Pearson scored 12 goals, 4 assists and 16 points. Pearson is a .38 points per game player; Toffoli is a .64 points per game player. The result means, Toffoli will clearly command more cash on the market as a result of his larger role and production.
Oshie’s yearly cap-hit breaks down to $4.175 million. With bonuses and incentives the Kings could possibly knock that number down a bit for Toffoli.
5-years seems like a perfect length for Toffoli. He’ll be with Carter for the prime of both their careers. By the time Toffoli’s extensions ends Carter will have 2-years left on his mega-deal. 5-years means the Kings have Toffoli’s rights until he’s 28 – that’s three years of Unrestricted Free Agency covered by this contract.
After a 5-year deal the Kings could re-evaluate Toffoli’s production and development. At this point however Toffoli is a building block for the Kings future, and he’s shown the Kings he’s worth the time and investment.
The perfect scenario is if L.A. and wizard General Manager Dean Lombardi can work the numbers so Toffoli’s annual cap-hit is $3.90 million.
When Kings defensemen Robyn Regehr retired $3.00 million of cap-space immediately became available. Regehr will be hard to replace, but it will be better for the Kings to move other players around creating space for a young defensemen while keeping Toffoli for the long-term with the same cap-room they currently have.
Perhaps Kings prospect Derek Forbort can step into Regehr’s place. Forbort was the Kings 2010 first round pick selected 15th overall, right before Vladimir Tarasenko.