It's been over six weeks since the NHL free-agent market opened on Oct. 9, yet Mike Hoffman remains unsigned. A skilled scoring winger, he's tallied 22-or-more goals and 48-plus points in each of the last six seasons, including a career-best 36 goals and 70 points in 2018-19.
Hoffman, who turns 31 on Nov. 24, would be a solid addition to any club seeking offensive punch. Unfortunately, a flattened salary cap for 2020-21 is making it difficult for the veteran winger to land a contract with a new team.
TSN's Frank Seravalli reported Hoffman sought a one-year deal worth between $5.5 million and $6.5 million. On Oct. 20, The Athletic's Adam Vingan reported Hoffman's agent, Robert Hooper, claimed 13 teams expressed interest in his client, including five or six he considered serious.
In a normal offseason, he'd have no trouble landing with another club. Given the current cap constraints, however, interested parties seem to be playing the waiting game hoping he drops his price.
Seravalli listed the Boston Bruins, Columbus Blue Jackets and Nashville Predators among the suitors. He also speculated the Montreal Canadiens and Vancouver Canucks could get into the mix if they're able to move pieces.
The right fit for Hoffman is a team in need of a top-six forward with the cap space to absorb his asking price. Here's a look at the top five landing spots, as well as a list of long shot destinations.
The Long Shot Destinations
In the intro, we noted TSN's Frank Seravalli suggesting the Montreal Canadiens and Vancouver Canucks could be among the interested parties if they move some pieces. He means moving a contract or two in a cost-cutting deal.
Cap Friendly indicates the Canadiens already have $81.1 million invested in 21 players for 2020-21, while the Canucks sit above the $81.5 million salary cap by $1.5 million. It's doubtful either club can free up sufficient space to add Hoffman at his asking price.
Seravalli also listed the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have $9.2 million in cap space. A healthy chunk of that, perhaps as much as $6 million, could be spent re-signing first-line center Pierre-Luc Dubois.
Blue Jackets winger Gustav Nyquist ($5.5 million) is out five to six months after having shoulder surgery. They could place him on long-term injury reserve and sign Hoffman. However, The Athletic's Aaron Portzline reported on Nov. 4 that Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen could prefer targeting cap-strapped teams in the trade market over signing a free agent.
The rebuilding Detroit Red Wings have $9.5 million in cap space, more than enough to sign Hoffman. However, they also have sufficient right-wing depth in Anthony Mantha, Bobby Ryan and the promising Filip Zadina. Tyler Bertuzzi, Robby Fabbri and Sam Gagner are their top three left-wingers.
Hoffman could be a short-term fit with the St. Louis Blues, who'll start the season with Vladimir Tarasenko on long-term injury reserve. They're above the cap by $1.2 million but can exceed the cap by the equivalent of Tarasenko's $7.5 million annual average value. However, they must become cap compliant when he returns later this season, plus they still have to re-sign defenseman Vince Dunn.
5. Los Angeles Kings
If any team could use a scoring winger like Hoffman, it's the Los Angeles Kings. They finished with the league's second-lowest goals-per-game average (2.53), while their power-play percentage (17.1) was sixth-worst.
Hoffman could be a good fit with first-line center Anze Kopitar. He led the Kings with 62 points last season, marking the 12th time in his 14-season NHL career he's reached 60 points. And he'd have better career stats if he had more skilled scoring wingers skating alongside him in his prime.
Salary-cap space wouldn't be an issue. The Kings have $13.6 million in cap space and can easily afford to pay Hoffman up to $6.5 million on a one-year deal.
The Kings are rebuilding primarily with youth from within their system. However, they could bring in an experienced scorer on a short-term basis to take some of the pressure off their young forwards.
4. Boston Bruins
The Boston Bruins have one of the NHL's best scoring lines with Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak. However, their secondary scoring was an issue, especially in the 2020 playoffs. General manager Don Sweeney signed free-agent winger Craig Smith as one measure to address that issue.
They could still use a reliable veteran scorer like Hoffman, who could be a good fit on the second line alongside center David Krejci and left wing Jake DeBrusk. The Bruins could have added incentive to sign Hoffman. Marchand is recovering from sports hernia surgery and could be sidelined until mid-January, while Pastrnak (hip surgery) could return in February.