The Tyler Toffoli trade made sense for the Canucks in several different ways — he fills a need in the top-six forward group, he’s a possession driver on a team that needs better puck possession, and he can score on the power play. Jim Benning’s update on Tuesday morning, however, suggested that there was a more immediate reason for acquiring Toffoli.
Brock Boeser will be out of the lineup for at least eight weeks and, in fact, might not return this season.
“It looks like it’s going to be more severe than we originally thought,” said Benning. “It’s an eight-week injury, so it looks like he could be done for the year.”
Eight weeks would go through the first week of April, meaning Boeser will be out for at least the rest of the regular season, but Benning equivocated when asked whether Boeser might be back for the playoffs, saying that he still needed to see a specialist to get further clarity about the injury.
Initially, it had been reported that Boeser would be re-evaluated in three weeks with fractured rib cartilage, but Benning made it clear didn’t mean Boeser could return at that time.
Benning also reported that Josh Leivo is expected to miss the rest of the regular season with his fractured knee, but could return for the playoffs.
That meant there was a significant need for a top-six winger, hence the trade for Toffoli.
“We wanted to make sure that we did something to show our players and coaches and fans that we want to compete here down the stretch,” said Benning. “This is something to give our team a chance to remain in the pack and compete for a playoff spot, that’s our goal.
“He does a lot of the same things Brock did for us, he’s got experience, he’s won the Stanley Cup, we just figured it was a good fit for our group,” he added.
Benning said they discussed replacing Boeser internally with a call-up from the AHL, but concluded they needed something more.
“We talked about it,” he said. “Reid Boucher has had a really good season down there, he’s worked hard, he’s changed his game a little bit, he’s getting in on the forecheck hard now, he’s been physical, plus he’s second or third in the league in scoring. Maybe it wasn’t so much Sven [Baertschi], but more giving Reid a chance, and we’ll see going forward, he still might get an opportunity.”
For Benning, the trade was about showing the team and the fans that they’re serious about being a playoff team.
“We want [the players] to know we appreciate their hard work through the season so far, we want to keep competing hard, working hard, and we want to be a playoff team,” said Benning. “Our fans are excited, they want to see us make the playoffs and we’re trying to do what we can do from our end to make it all work.”
The loss of Boeser will hurt the Canucks significantly, as he was on pace for a career year and combined with Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller to form one of the best lines in the NHL. He won’t be easy to replace, though Toffoli will help.
This makes the third straight year that Boeser hasn’t completed a full season, with a career-best 69 games last season. His injuries have been unusual, perhaps even fluke injuries, not the type of injuries that you would expect to be recurring or problematic in the future, but it’s still troubling that the star winger has yet to play a full season.