The addition of Craig Smith to the Bruins top-nine certainly helps, but there’s still a need for a legitimate goal scorer to play on David Krejci’s wing on the Bruins second line.
As one of the remaining top offensive free agents on the market, could Mike Hoffman fill that role for the Bruins?
While the answer is surely a yes, it’s not as easy as it sounds.
Let’s start with Hoffman and what he would bring to the Bruins second line.
The 30-year old Hoffman has scored at least 22 goals in each of his past six seasons, including 36 in 2018-19 and 29 a season ago.
He’s also a guy that you can rely on to stay in the lineup as he’s only missed 15 games in his last six seasons. He’s appeared in every game for the Florida Panthers in each of the last three seasons.
Hoffman has also been a playoff performer, scoring 10 times in 29 playoff games to go along with nine assists.
The Bruins addressed their need for more consistent five-on-five scoring by adding Smith but bringing Hoffman into the mix would further help that need. The veteran winger has scored 10 or more five-on-five goals in each of the last six seasons.
In 69 games with the Panthers last season, Hoffman scored 14 times five-on-five. Hoffman’s 14 5v5 goals would have only trailed David Pastrnak (25) and Brad Marchand (21).
Earlier this week Hoffman’s agent Robert Hooper told the Athletic
that his client has no issues in taking a one-year deal.
“There’s no issues on a one-year deal. Obviously, if you’re going to take a one-year deal, you want to put yourself in a good situation, because you’re going to be back in the market next year again,” Hooper said.
If the Bruins are indeed interested in Hoffman this is good news for them. Similar to what the Buffalo Sabres and Taylor Hall agreed upon, the Bruins could bring Hoffman in and hope he’s the missing piece to the Bruins offensive puzzle.
Signing Hoffman to a one-year contract is not as easy as it sounds for the Bruins. After signing Matt Grzelcyk last week, the Bruins have just over $6.6M in cap space left according to Cap Friendly.
While $6.6M should be enough to ink Hoffman to a one-year contract, the Bruins have two issues standing in the way.
DeBrusk remains as the Bruins final unsinged restricted free agent and should end up somewhere in the $4-$6M range yearly.
General manager Don Sweeney also admitted he wants some cap flexibility going into the season, leaving some space to better manage the team.
There’s also UFA Zdeno Chara who could be back with the Bruins next season and would further complicate the Bruins cap situation.
So, what does this all mean?
On the surface, it seems like it’s either DeBrusk or Hoffman unless the Bruins can find a way to move out approximately $5-$6M in cap space.
That would mean trading David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Pastrnak, Marchand, Charlie Coyle or Tuukka Rask which with the exception of maybe Rask, won’t be happening.
Even if Sweeney got creative and was able to move the contracts of say Nick Ritchie and John Moore, the Bruins still would be left short of what they would need to sign both DeBrusk and Hoffman.
DeBrusk has been linked to trade rumors this offseason and a trade of the 23-year old could be the move the Bruins make to pave the way for Hoffman.
But is giving up on a 23-year old with just three years of experience the right move?
After a 43-point campaign his rookie season, DeBrusk has taken steps backwards in his development, finishing with 42 points in 2018-19 and 35 in 65 games last season.
Consistency has been DeBrusk’s biggest issues. When he’s cold, he’s really cold and when he’s hot, he’s really hot. There hasn’t been much in between for DeBrusk.
Over the past three seasons, DeBrusk has ranked 4th, 3rd and 4th on the team in five-on-five goals scored.
Season three was the year the Bruins hoped DeBrusk would take that next step and push 30-goals as he did in 2018-19. But that push never came.
Now, the Bruins are left in a position where they need to decide if they’re willing to see if DeBrusk can make that push in his next contract, or if they’re better off trading him for assets that could help fill holes in other areas of concern.
The Bruins have a need for a big, left-shot defenseman, something a trade of DeBrusk could fill, allowing them to sign Hoffman.
But again, by taking on a defenseman to fill that gap, cap space becomes an issue.
Whether the Bruins decide to take the DeBrusk road, the Hoffman road, or the sign both and figure it out road, Sweeney has some work to do with a Bruins team that has left more to be desired this offseason.