Trading Tyler Toffoli is the Right Move for New Jersey Devils Cup Window

Toffoli's departure to the Jets is a depressing event in a disastrous season, but it provides the Devils the assets and clean cap sheet needed to keep their Stanley Cup window open late into this decade.

Vegas Golden Knights v New Jersey Devils
Vegas Golden Knights v New Jersey Devils / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

While Tyler Toffoli is a consummate professional who could have been a contributor to the next Devils Stanley Cup winning team, the Devils long-term cup window will be better served now that Tyler Toffoli is wearing a Jets uniform.

Mike Mcintyre of the Winnipeg Free Press reported that the Devils traded Tyler Toffoli to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for two draft picks, a 2nd and 3rd round pick. The trade recoups a similar return to the one the Devils traded away to acquire Toffoli this past summer (Yegor Sharangovich and a 3rd round pick), but it is still a disappointing end to his Devils tenure.

Tyler Toffoli has been a stabilizing force in the Devils top 6 all season. He played in 61 of the team’s first 62 games, and he led the team with 26 goals. He's played the role he was brought in to play last summer perfectly. He’s been Jack Hughes’ most common linemate (507 minutes at 5-on-5), and has a Corsi For% of 68.98 while on the ice with Jack and a 73.34% with Jesper Bratt, according to Natural Stat Trick. Everything else about this Devils season, however, has been the embodiment of Murphy’s Law, and the Devils position out of the playoff race has led them to this trade.

Looking at the Devils’ future cap sheet, Toffoli, who will turn 32 in April, doesn’t fit into their long-term plans. On July 1, Luke Hughes will be eligible for an extension, kicking in for the 2025-26 season, that should pay him well north of draftmate Owen Power’s seven-year, $8.35 million AAV deal. Dougie Hamilton’s injury forced the Devils' hand into burning Nemec’s first season of his entry-level contract. He is due for a substantial raise the season after Hughes, in 2026-27. The 2026-27 season is also the final year of Nico Hischier’s discount $7.25 million AAV deal, and Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald will be negotiating an extension with a raise for Hischier then.

There’s also a risk that Toffoli’s skills could regress, and he could slip to a bottom-six forward in his mid-30s. Toffoli already has well below-average speed. According to NHL Edge, his 28 speed bursts over 20 mph are significantly below the league average for forwards (59), and his top skating speed of 21.79 mph is slightly below the NHL average forward (22.08).

His offensive production this season is also likely slightly overestimating his talent level. His 26 goals outpace his total of 23.6 expected goals according to MoneyPuck, and his shooting percentage of 14.5% is much higher than his career 10.2% average.

A report by James Nichols suggested Toffoli’s agent is reportedly seeking a five-to-six year extension to remain with the team, while the Devils were seeking a three-to-four year deal.

Even with the cap rising, the Devils likely do not want to pay north of 10 million combined for 35-year-old Ondrej Palat and 34-year-old Tyler Toffoli three seasons from now in the 2026-27 season, when Nemec and Luke Hughes will be combining for 18 million AAV—never mind still paying a 37-year-old Tyler Toffoli 5 million or more in 2029-30.

Trading Toffoli now provides the Devils with additional draft capital needed to keep their Stanley Cup window open at least until Jack Hughes’ bargain-basement contract expires in 2029-2030. It also frees up money this summer for the Devils to trade for or sign the 1A goalie they desperately need. 

If Toffoli wants to return on a short-term deal in July, the Devils should welcome it, but if not, its for the best that Toffoli is wearing a different uniform today.