The Habs made their biggest splash of the opening of free agency with their sixth signing of the day, signing winger Mike Hoffman on a three-year, $13.5M contract.
This isn’t the first time that GM Marc Bergevin has shown interest in the 31-year-old as the Canadiens were linked to Hoffman multiple times during free agency last fall to the point where there were reports he had turned down a bigger offer from Montreal to go to St. Louis.
Hoffman will give the Habs some much-needed scoring pop, especially with Tomas Tatar likely heading elsewhere. Last season was the first time he didn’t hit the 20-goal mark in his career (in his full years) although he still wound up with 17 in 52 games, a greater than 20-goal pace over a full 82-game season. He also picked up 19 helpers with the Blues with his 36 points finishing tied for third on the team in scoring.
In particular, Hoffman fills a big need when it comes to the power play as he is a big threat with the man advantage. He has 56 tallies on the power play over the past five seasons; for context, only four NHL players have more (Alex Ovechkin, David Pastrnak, Leon Draisaitl, and Steven Stamkos). That’s pretty good company to be in.
Having said that, there’s a reason that this contract is only at $4.5M and much higher. Hoffman is not the type of player to make an impact in any other area of the game; he’s not particularly physical or good in his own end. If he’s not scoring, he’s not bringing much of anything to the table which is why he was a healthy scratch at times last season.
Still, this is a definite upgrade for Montreal’s forward group. Power play help was needed at the best of times and Shea Weber’s absence is certainly going to change how that top unit operates so having a strong shooter in Hoffman to line up on the opposite side of Cole Caufield will certainly help.
Notably, there is at least one extra winger in the fold. Hoffman, Jonathan Drouin, Paul Byron, and Artturi Lehkonen are natural left wingers while Caufield, Tyler Toffoli, Josh Anderson, Brendan Gallagher, and Joel Armia are all right wingers. Unless one of them is replacing Phillip Danault (who signed with the Kings) down the middle, they have one too many. Yes, having that depth is nice but a healthy scratch making upwards of $3 million isn’t a great use of resources either. While this doesn’t guarantee a trade, it does suggest one could be coming at some point this summer.