Three weeks into NHL free agency, high-scoring winger Mike Hoffman is still looking for an NHL team despite averaging 28 goals per season in his six-year NHL career. The Boston Bruins are among a half-dozen teams with serious interest in the goal-scorer, and that makes perfect sense given their need for improved secondary scoring beyond the Perfection Line.
But the Boston Bruins are just as guilty as the rest of the NHL in “low-balling” Hoffman to this point in free agent, according to a report from The Athletic. Pierre Lebrun spoke with Hoffman’s agent Robert Hooper this week and reported that the one-year offers for Hoffman have been “between $3.5 and 4.5 million” to this point after Hoffman topped $5 million per season AAV on his last contract.
Coming off a pair of seasons when Hoffman averaged over 30 goals and 60 points for the Florida Panthers while avoiding any off-ice issues that dogged him in Ottawa, he was looking to top $6 million per season on a new contract prior to a big COVID-19 market correction.
Now, Hoffman is playing the patience game while seeing what develops with teams like the Bruins and St. Louis Blues once teams get closer to puck drop and develop a better read on how the LTIR (long term injured reserve) situations will play out.
“Very patient,’’ said Hooper to The Athletic. “Mike has been one of the most consistent goal scorers the last six seasons and the last two were his best. More importantly, Mike, like every great scorer is willing to be patient and look for the right opportunity.’’
It sounds like the Bruins will be in competition with the Blues, Oilers, Predators and Panthers when it comes down to Hoffman making his decision, but Don Sweeney has been very non-committal about the B’s using LTIR money to cover the Marchand and Pastrnak injuries. There’s a good chance Marchand will be ready to play by the time the NHL returns, and Pastrnak is expected to come back from hip surgery some time in February.
“[Using the LTIR cap space] is always on option for us. I don’t suspect that in Brad’s case that [it would apply]. Unless he has a setback along the way, indications are he’s doing very well in post-surgical rehab. I don’t suspect he’ll have any setbacks,” said Sweeney back in the opening days of NHL free agency. “He’ll be ready to go. David, it’s just a matter of the timeline and what we expect, depending on the season. When it starts.
“That may dictate how much time, if any time, that Pastrnak will miss. We have to make sure that the player is healthy. He’s coming off a situation where he had to have something repaired. And he feels so much better as result. He’s in the early stages but moving along very well in the rehab and we’re very comfortable with where he’s going to be coming out of it. I think he’ll be much better off pain-free in an area that was giving him discomfort. We don’t expect him to miss a lot of time, but again, that is predicated on when the season actually does begin. We still don’t know that. I think we have depth throughout the lineup. You miss star players, obviously your lineup is affected. But we feel comfortable that we’ll be able to plug holes if we need to. If [LTI] was an option [for Pastrnak], we don’t necessarily foresee [that] we’ll have to utilize it. But not unlike last year and the 16 or so other teams that went through the season with injuries that impact your lineup, you may have to utilize that.”
So Sweeney and the Bruins would be pushed beyond the cap pretty early into the season if they did go the LTIR route, and they’re already paying a $1.8 million bonus overage penalty over the next two seasons for pushing over the cap last season. That’s not a good scenario when it seems like all 31 NHL general managers will be pinching pennies and cutting coupons dealing with a flat salary cap for the next few seasons thanks to the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bottom line for the Bruins when it comes to Hoffman?
Teams need to pay for goal-scoring and Hoffman in the $5-6 million range on a one-year deal would be a massive bargain based on his consistent offensive production. Sure, he’s more of a PP threat than an even strength goal-producer over the course of his career, but he still scored more even strength goals (18) last season than anybody on the Boston Bruins roster aside from Patrice Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak.
Given the top-6 spot and the power play time he would garner as a shoot-first kind of player on a team full of unselfish pass-first teammates, the Bruins would be one of the best spots for Hoffman to shine in a one-year audition for a bigger contract next time around.
That’s something the Bruins simply can’t ignore if they’ve got a chance to ink Hoffman to a no-risk, one-year deal while making one more Stanley Cup push before the window really begins to close on Boston’s current core group.