Eggs Bennett 22-10
May 28, 2022
The Killer Contracts series concludes with this seventh and final article. In six previous articles I addressed Shea Weber, Jeff Petry, Brendan Gallagher, Paul Byron, Joel Armia and David Savard. You can find them all at habather.ca. For my final stop, I’m considering Mike Hoffman.
Seven may be the symbolic number of completeness, but in this context it only points to a complete salary cap nightmare that has been left behind by former GM Marc Bergevin. The new leadership duo of Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton (HuGo) will spend the summer trying to chip away at the mass of challenging financial commitments left in Bergevin’s wake.
Not every killer contract will be addressed this summer – this process is a marathon, not a sprint. We can be sure that some contracts will be moved, and just as sure that some of them will be both on the books and on the ice next season.
The Contract Background
Mike Hoffman will turn 33 in November, in the second year of a 3-year, $13.5M contract that has an AAV of $4.5M. The contract has neither signing bonuses or trade protection to consider.
How did this killer contract come to be?
Hoffman was drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the fifth round of the 2009 draft at 130th overall. He developed for another year in the QMJHL before signing his entry-level contract with Ottawa. Hoffman split one season between the ECHL and the AHL, and then three seasons between Ottawa and the AHL. The 2014-15 season was Hoffman’s first complete NHL season, and he would go on to play four more years there.
Following his ELC, Hoffman signed three one-year contracts with the Senators before signing a four-year deal in the summer of 2016. In the summer of 2018, he was traded to Florida, then signed a one-year free agent contract with the St. Louis Blues in the summer of 2020.
In the summer of 2021, Bergevin signed Hoffman as an unrestricted free agent to his current contract.
Square peg, round hole. That’s the killer. Hoffman is not exactly a one-trick pony, but you might not spot the difference immediately. His bread and butter are the power play, and Bergevin added Hoffman to a team whose power play had been abysmal for years. While the Habs lacked a bona fide quarterback and employed a suspect system, Hoffman struggled to bring the same level of effectiveness on the man advantage that he had known with previous teams.
Adding Hoffman was a Bergevin Hail Mary to try and help a power play he had not appropriately addressed, year after year, since Andrei Markov’s departure. Let’s just say it did not end in a touchdown, and it was nonsensical to expect that it would.
The contract is entirely tradeable – for the right fit, this contract is not a killer by any means. On a cap-strapped team that has several important holes to fill, spending 5.5% of your entire cap hit on a limited-tricks pony is a killer… but it’s a killer that can and will be addressed.
When considering fixers, I’m considering two kinds of teams and two trade junctures.
The ideal trade candidate, in my view, is the truly competitive team that could use some additional power play prowess. This team would add Hoffman to help the power play, not fix it. The best juncture for this team would probably be at the upcoming trade deadline, when secondary scoring is being addressed and final pieces added to help a team over the hump for the playoffs.
We can’t know which teams will be in that boat come trade deadline next year, but I can speak to the teams from this past season that might have been good candidates, as examples.
Los Angeles Kings – The Kings were the playoff team with the worst power play percentage heading into the playoffs at just 16%. One glance at how their man advantage lined up in the post-season, and it’s not hard to see where Hoffman could have helped.
Washington Capitals – The Capitals struggled offensively in the playoffs and heading in their power play was striking at under 19%. Could they have used another offensive weapon?
The Minnesota Wild and the Pittsburgh Penguins were playoff teams whose man advantage ran at 20% during the regular season who might have found a use for Hoffman.
The second kind of team is the rebuilding and nearly ready team that has plenty of cap space and can make use of a solid veteran while some kids develop. If HuGo wishes to move Hoffman in the summer, this is the kind of team he might target. The Detroit Red Wings is one such team who might also benefit from the power play boost.
Mike Hoffman will not finish his contract with the Montreal Canadiens, and my expectation is that he will not even finish the second year. The Habs can replace his production (surprisingly) with a younger and cheaper Rem Pitlick while they rebuild. Between now and trade deadline for the upcoming season, Hoffman will be moved to a team that can make the best use of his power play prowess.