Tyler Toffoli wants to finish what he has started with the Vancouver Canucks.
As an unrestricted free agent, the 28-year-old right-winger could test the market when the NHL’s free agency period opens on Oct. 9. But Toffoli told reporters Friday that he’d rather stay where he is.
“I want to stay in Vancouver and that’s my number one priority as of right now,” the former Ottawa 67’s star said.
“It’s definitely an exciting time to be in Vancouver and it’s definitely something that people want to be a part of now.”
After eight seasons with the Los Angeles Kings, Toffoli was sent north at the trade deadline in February. The Canucks sent back left-winger Tim Schaller, prospect Tyler Madden and a second-round pick in the 2020 draft.
The Toronto-born forward joined a line with J.T. Miller and Elias Pettersson and quickly settled in, tallying 10 points (six goals, four assists) in 10 regular-season games for the Canucks.
The Canucks’ roster is stocked with young talent, including Pettersson and rookie defenceman Quinn Hughes, and the prospect of playing with those rising stars is a big part of why Toffoli wants to stay in Vancouver.
“They have some kids in this organization and some guys who really stepped up and shown that they’re ready to take the next step,” he said. “It’s pretty impressive to see what some of these guys did.”
Toffoli suffered a lower-body injury in the first game of Vancouver’s qualifying series against the Minnesota Wild but returned for the second round of the playoffs against the Vegas Golden Knights, who eliminated the Canucks with a Game 7 victory.
He admitted that he wasn’t 100 per cent healthy when he came back.
“I wasn’t comfortable,” Toffoli said. ”It’s the playoffs, a lot of guys are hurting and stuff. I’m not going to be here to make excuses for myself or anything. I came back and did everything I could. Obviously, I wish I could have done a little bit more to push the team over the edge.”
Still, he was immediately noticeable, scoring 90 seconds into his first game back and putting up a total of four playoff points (two goals, two assists).
Toffoli may not have played a lot of games for the Canucks, but he’s proven his worth, said teammate Tanner Pearson.
“It was definitely a small sample size, but it was a good sample size,” said Pearson, who also played with Toffoli in L.A. ”I’ll be biased until the end of time, but he can definitely help us and I’m hoping that he’s back in blue.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 10, 2020.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press