By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Perhaps it’s time that we accept that free agent winger Mike Hoffman is going to be linked to the Boston Bruins until he either signs with the Bruins or some other team puts us all out of our will-they-won’t-they misery.
Until then, we’ll have more linkage and updates like this tidbit (or is it a Timbit?) from TSN last night.
When discussing the remaining free agents tonight, TSN projected that Mike Hoffman would eventually land with the Bruins, making too much sense not to happen.— Bruins Stats (@bruins_stats) December 16, 2020
Still on the market despite entering it as its top scorer from a season ago, the 31-year-old Hoffman and his camp have made it known that they’re willing to find the right fit. Robert Hooper, the agent for Hoffman, noted earlier this offseason that Hoffman has drawn interest from 13 different NHL teams. With the opening of NHL training camps expected to come within a couple of weeks, and with the NHL still aiming for a mid-January start, it’s probably time for Hoffman’s camp to circle back to those 13 and find out who’s serious and who was merely swiping right on what they’d find themselves willing to do at two in the morning.
By now, we know that this downright awful market is good news for the Bruins. Or any team looking to rummage through the free agent bin. Especially when we’re talking about a talent who entered the market with hopes of nabbing a $6 million per year contract. It’s safe to assume the ship has sailed on that kind of deal, and that Hoffman is just going to focus on the fit for now.
This is why it makes ‘too much sense’ for the Bruins and Hoffman, who has scored at least 22 goals in six straight seasons, not to find a landing spot that brings him to Boston and on David Krejci’s wing.
The Bruins would not only give Hoffman the best chance to stay productive (and relevant) and cash-in elsewhere in 2021, but after a teeth-pull of a year with Krejci and Jake DeBrusk unable to get on the same page, a Krejci-Hoffman duo may be what the Bruins want to truly elevate their second line. (They’d probably have to shelter the hell out of that line to mask Hoffman’s defensive woes, but Bruce Cassidy has done with previous iterations of the Krejci line.)
And for all the talk of Hoffman being a power-play specialist, his 18 even-strength goals in 2019-20 would’ve held as the fourth-most on B’s last year (trailing only the Bergeron Line) and held a five-tally edge over the fifth-place Charlie Coyle.
But the Bruins’ cap space and roster size situation haven’t improved since these Hoffman rumors began.
The team re-signed DeBrusk (and all their other restricted free agents), added Craig Smith, and have just under $3 million in projected cap space for the 2021 season with captain Zdeno Chara still unsigned. The Bruins also failed to cut bait with any of their in-house redundancies, further complicating the team’s roster logjam on the wing and backend. Now, Chara’s Boston future will become clearer once we have an idea as to what the 2021 season looks like from a format standpoint, and roster sizes may expand. But is it enough to get Hoffman in Boston? That’s a tricky one.
As of right now, it’s just hard to see how Hoffman fits in Boston.
Brad Marchand will miss the start of the regular season, sure, but the B’s left side currently features a signed DeBrusk, Anders Bjork, Nick Ritchie, Par Lindholm, and Anton Blidh. It’s also expected that 2016 first-round pick Trent Frederic will get a chance to show what he can do in a physical, bottom-six role. There’s already a ton of bodies there. Same for the right side — even with David Pastrnak slated to follow Marchand’s lead and miss the start of 2021 — that has Smith, Ondrej Kase, Chris Wagner on the roster as locks, and with Karson Kuhlman and top prospect Jack Studnicka as options.
The flip-side of that, of course, is that few of those options mentioned have matched Hoffman’s production. And if this franchise is serious about one final kick at the can, Hoffman represents a non-trade upgrade to the squad’s overall depth.
In other words, let the linkage continue because it makes too much sense for it to stop.
Listen to Ty Anderson and Matt Dolloff talk about the Bruins, Mike Hoffman, and more in the newest episode of the SideLines podcast below.