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Assessing Potential Free Agent Options For The Sabres: Tyler Toffoli

June 14, 2020, 11:09 PM ET [498 Comments]
Michael Ghofrani
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The third instalment of our free agent targets brings us to potentially the best winger available (yes, maybe even better than Taylor Hall). Tyler Toffoli is having yet another stellar campaign at both ends of the ice and should the Vancouver Canucks not be able to re-sign him, there will be no shortage of suitors for his services. Here’s a look at his numbers from the 2019-20 season.

An important note, the “teammates” numbers used in the charts below were calculated using the “Rel TM” (relative to teammate) stat to illustrate Toffoli’s on-ice impact independent of his teammates. The 50th percentile was calculated using forwards who had played at least 300 mins at 5-on-5 this year.


CF/CA: shot attempts for/against
XGF/XGA: expected goals for/against
ICF: individual shot attempts
IXG: individual expected goals
/60: per 60 minutes
Rel Tm: stat relative to teammates
OZS: offensive zone starts
NZS: neutral zone starts
DZS: defensive zone starts

All numbers at 5v5 from naturalstattrick.com

Tyler Toffoli Profile:

Position: Right Wing
Age: 28
Previous Cap Hit: 4.6 million
5v5 TOI/GP: 12:37(LA), 14:43(VAN)

OZS/60: 9.42
NZS/60: 14.1
DZS/60: 8.61

View post on imgur.com

View post on imgur.com

Great possession numbers, above average expected goals for results and plenty of individual contribution to both totals, Toffoli certainly reads like a must sign free agent candidate. However, as with most unrestricted free agents, there’s always at least one area that can give a team pause.

In the last few seasons, Toffoli has shot well below his expected goals for. He’s great generating chances, quality ones too, but you figure at the rate he’s shooting he’d have a few more goals to his name. His fortunes may have changed though as this year marks the first season where he actually scored above his individual expected goals for.

There could be any number of reasons for the sudden return in shooting ability but I think more than anything the Los Angeles Kings played a style of hockey this year that they hadn’t since, 2015-16, the last time Toffoli outscored his individual expected goals for. The kings as a whole even outside of Toffoli generated a lot of quality chances, and it’s possible that for Toffoli, the increase in quality chances created by his teammates lead to the kind of opportunities for him that are good enough to close the gap in shooting talent. Rebound XG is tougher to quantify with so many more variables introduced but one thing to note is that this season 28.7% of Toffoli’s expected goals were from rebounds, that’s his highest total in the last five seasons.

So, if it’s in fact the team effects and not an improvement in shooting, then Toffoli looks like your classic high event player. The more events in a game, the more likely Toffoli is to do some damage offensively and thanks to his good play away from the puck, his increased offense will likely outpace whatever he gives back defensively.

Special Teams:

View post on imgur.com

View post on imgur.com


Much like Jeff Skinner for the Sabres, Toffoli does his best work at 5-on-5. He’s posted better power play numbers in his brief time in Vancouver, but that unit also has Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson on it, hard to imagine someone being worse off on the power play there. As long as he’s producing elsewhere, you can probably live with Toffoli not being a presence on your number one power play (or power play in general).

Contract Numbers:

Conveniently, we have a pretty good benchmark for a contract here after the Chris Kreider deal. Kreider and Toffoli have similar goal and assist totals and are almost exactly one year apart in age (with Kreider being the older of the two) so it’s very likely that his agent will look for a similar deal in free agency. The actual AAV may vary depending on what happens with the cap but we can expect Toffoli to command a deal that, like Kreider, takes up around 8% of a team’s cap, maybe even a little over that.

Given that the Canucks were willing to part with a prospect as good as Tyler Madden, I expect they’ll make an aggressive push to re-sign, so even if Toffoli chooses to explore his options, you have to believe a 7-year deal will be on the table. He’s never really been a speedster or an elite shooter, so it’s possible his on ice impact can last for the majority of a long-term contract that goes into his 30’s. On the other hand, you have to wonder if he does get any slower will he be able to keep up in general.


The Sabres may very well be in cost cutting mode this off season so it’s hard to know if they’ll be players in free agency unless they find a way to shed some salary, either through trade or via a new league rule just for this off season. If they do want to make a play in free agency, Toffoli is probably the guy to go after. The deal carries major risks, but the reward would be worth it. They would likely need to ditch their current style of play, but they really should be doing that anyways.

The offer here should be exactly the same as the Kreider deal, 7 years, 6.5 million AAV. If a team is willing to go over that and assume that much more risk, then more power to them, but this should be the absolute ceiling in terms of dollars and years for the Sabres.

Thanks for reading!
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