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Toffoli looking to stay with Canucks rather than becoming free agent

Vancouver would need to trade other players to sign forward, Markstrom, Tanev, GM says

by Kevin Woodley / Independent Correspondent

Tyler Toffoli said Friday he wants to sign with the Vancouver Canucks rather than become an unrestricted free agent on Oct. 9.

"I want to stay in Vancouver and that's my No. 1 priority as of right now," Toffoli said.

The forward, acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 17, scored 10 points (six goals, four assists) in 10 regular-season games with Vancouver and four points (two goals, two assists) in seven postseason games.

Toffoli missed three weeks during the postseason after sustaining a high ankle sprain in Game 1 of the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers against the Minnesota Wild on Aug. 2. It was originally thought the injury would keep him out six weeks, but he came back a little more than three weeks later and had a goal and two assists in Game 2 of the Western Conference Second Round against the Vegas Golden Knights on Aug. 25. Vancouver lost that series in seven games. 

The 28-year-old has scored 300 points (145 goals, 155 assists) in 525 NHL games in eight seasons with the Canucks and Kings; he won the Stanley Cup with Los Angeles in 2014.

Vancouver general manager Jim Benning has said his first priority is re-signing goalie Jacob Markstrom, who along with veteran defenseman Christopher Tanev can also become an unrestricted free agent. Benning told TSN 1040 Radio on Thursday that being able to sign all three players and fit them under the NHL salary cap, which will remain at $81.5 million next season, would require trading other players. 

Toffoli said he wants to speak with Benning to gauge the possibility of returning to Vancouver next season and beyond.

"That's priority No. 1 as of right now," Toffoli said. "I want to say that I haven't really thought about it a whole lot but it's definitely that time in my life where you have to, and you want the security for yourself and for your family and all those things. ... If things progress and not in the right direction, then that's when I have to think about going to a different place."

Video: VGK@VAN, Gm4: Toffoli buries sweet dish on power play

Toffoli cited talented young players including 21-year-old center Elias Pettersson, who won the Calder Trophy voted as the top rookie in the NHL last season; 20-year-old defenseman Quinn Hughes, a finalist for the award this season; and the leadership of 25-year-old captain Bo Horvat as reasons for wanting to stay.

"They have some kids in this organization and some guys that really stepped up and showed they are ready to take the next step," Toffoli said. "It's definitely an exciting time to be in Vancouver and it's definitely something people want to be a part of now."

Vancouver made the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2015 and won a series, eliminating the defending Cup champion St. Louis Blues in six games in the first round, for the first time since 2011, when it lost to the Boston Bruins in seven games in the Stanley Cup Final. 

Canucks forward Tanner Pearson, who played on a line with Toffoli when the Kings won the Cup in 2014, is pushing for his friend to stay, but understands it may not be possible. 

"I definitely think it crosses everyone's mind," Pearson said. "Everyone is hoping we can keep the crew together and we like where we ended up. It put the realization into all of us of what we could do if we all stick together. 

"We were one win away from going to the conference final, so hopefully when the time comes, a lot of the guys are coming back."

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