May 1, 2023
With the off-season already well underway for the Montreal Canadiens, one focal point for GM Kent Hughes will be to continue to whittle away at the bad contracts left behind by his predecessor.
Cap space is no longer a pressing issue with names like Paul Byron, Jonathan Drouin and Sean Monahan coming off the books, and Carey Price clearly situated in Long Term Injured Reserve. The concern is roster spots, with underperforming veterans on substantial contracts filling spaces that young and inexpensive prospects can likely fill more effectively.
At his end-of-season press conference, Hughes was asked directly about the potential for him to buy out some players this summer, and he did not rule out that possibility. One obvious candidate is Mike Hoffman.
The Cost Calculation
Hoffman enters the season as a pending unrestricted free agent with one year remaining on a three-year contract that has an average annual value (AAV) of $4.5M.
Should the Canadiens elect to buy Hoffman out this summer, they would be hit with a two-season cap hit of $1, 666, 667. For the coming season, that’s a healthy savings of $3.33M. But for the 2024-25 season, when Hoffman should have been off the books, the Habs would continue to carry the cap hit.
The cost calculation for the Habs is simple math. Is what they would hope to gain by removing Hoffman from the roster a year early worth the hit they could take in the second year of the buyout? The answer may depend on how soon Hughes expects to need that cap space to have his team take the appropriate next step forward.
A Lost Asset
One consideration for Montreal is whether they foresee being able to recover an asset for Hoffman by trade. Hoffman may not have value at his full cap hit but, at the trade deadline, he might he be interesting to a playoff team at a reduced cap hit and more so with another expiring contract coming back.
Evgenii Dadonov was not expected to fetch a return at the past trade deadline, but with 50% retained a deal was made. Certainly, the return was not exorbitant, but the Habs were able to take a flyer on a player with high potential that another team had given up on. A similar deal could likely be made for Hoffman.
The Habs may wish to move on from Hoffman sooner, but I’m not convinced a buyout is necessary to do so. They can retain in July as easily as in February, and this year’s free agent market is not exactly mind-blowing. They could retain at 50% and suddenly a year of Hoffman at a $2.25M is more appealing for a trade partner. Now add the return of an expiring contract they’d be prepared to demote to Laval and Hoffman has value as a complementary goal scorer.
Replacing the Production
Hoffman has never provided the top-six production with the Habs that he realized with his former teams. That said, the Habs are at the bottom on the standings and can hardly afford to give away goals without considering how they will be replaced.
Is there any doubt that Rafael Harvey-Pinard can replace Hoffman’s production? He scored as many goals as Hoffman this past season in half as many games. Jesse Ylonen, Emil Heineman, and others will be knocking at the door in Montreal. This is not likely a concern for Hughes, but rather a motivation with younger, cheaper options available. Hughes will only be thinking of moving on from Hoffman if he believes the production can be replaced.
Shifting the Culture
There is no rush to move on from Mike Hoffman. The Montreal Canadiens are not shaping up to be contenders as early as next season, and they could simply retain him until an acceptable trade materializes between now and the trade deadline. If his play is truly abysmal and he can’t be dealt, they could just waive him. A rebuilding team should pause before kicking the cap hit can down the road, but in this case the impact and risk are low.
A buyout would represent another step toward shifting the Habs culture toward a youth movement, favouring development over finding a spot for veterans. Of the contracts that can be bought out, Hoffman’s is less painful than others. Hughes may decide freeing up the roster spot for a young player is worth the penalty.
Mike Hoffman does not have a future with the Habs but how soon his future is freed up may depend on whether Hughes sees potential to orchestrate a trade, whether he’s prepared to wait for that to materialize, and whether moving on might be worth it. The good news is that there will be much bigger decisions and much bigger deals on the GM’s radar as off-season activity picks up.
5 thoughts on “Is Mike Hoffman a buyout candidate?”
Great commentary Lori. As they say, “The devil is in the details”. I don’t have them all, so I say good luck to the management team in cracking that nut. Hoffman leaving is just a matter of timing. I’ve never been a fan of Hoffman or his play but I did like him a little more when he returned to the game after taking that vicious cross check.
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Hoffman is neither as good as Bergevin hoped he would be when he signed him, or as bad as fans think he is. How much longer he stays around will be tied up in other business decisions more than Hoffman himself, I think.
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I am leaning towards hanging onto Hoffman with the hope of finding a trading partner down the line. Habs can retain salary and maybe get a modest return. More importantly no dead cap space the following year. Having said that, a Hoffman buyout is a very real possibility, especially if it prevents losing a promising player through waivers.
With Hoffman on the team next season a prospect may need to marinate a little longer in Laval which may not be a bad thing. I don’t have enough information to know which option is the best but I do trust HUGO to weigh everything in this case and chart the necessary course.
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That’s the important detail – none of us have enough information because we don’t know the other moves Hughes will make. The decision about Hoffman will likely revolve around who else is added. I expect them to be aggressive.
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