Free Agent Profile: Mike Hoffman, Power Play Specialist

Panthers Forward Mike Hoffman is an expiring UFA this summer (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Introduction

In 2019-20, the New Jersey Devils were flat out bad. The team held a record of 29 wins, 30 losses, and 12 overtime and shootout losses. Even despite the post-all-star game success of rookie goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood, the team still struggled.

One reason they were so terrible was its lack of goal scoring and scoring depth. The Devils only had one 20-plus goal scorer this season, that being Kyle Palmieri. They also had only four other players who scored more than 10 goals.

The Devils desperately need to fix this, and Florida Panthers’ forward Mike Hoffman could solve these problems. So, we are going to see if he’d be a good fit in New Jersey.

Background

Mike Hoffman was drafted in the fifth round, 130th overall in 2009 by the Ottawa Senators. In Ottawa he was a solid top-six forward, scoring 107 goals and 230 total points in 342 games. In 2018, Hoffman had an issue with Erik Karlsson and it soured his relationship with the organization. He was then traded twice on June 19th of 2018 to San Jose and then to Florida.

During the past two seasons with the Panthers, he has had the best of his career. With a combined 65 goals and 129 points in 151 games, he became one of the team’s top players. One thing to note about Hoffman is that unlike some other somewhat undersized wingers he hasn’t had trouble staying healthy. He has never played less than 74 games in a full season (besides his rookie season).

Hoffman was drafted by the Ottawa Senators and played there for 4 full seasons before being traded to the Panthers (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Statistics

On the surface, Hoffman’s advanced stats in Florida have been fantastic with a 58.89 Corsi-for percentage (CF%) and a 56.18 expected goals percentage (xG%). However, those are his stats at all strengths. All strengths means whenever he is on the ice, so they are definitely inflated by Florida’s 24.05% on the power play over the last two seasons. So, the question now is, how inflated are they? The answer, a lot.

Combined stats from
previous 2 seasons
(from naturalstattrick)
All StrengthsEven Strength
CF%58.89%49.94%
xG%56.18%46.75%

As you can see, the difference in the even-strength to all-strength numbers is enormous, almost 10% in both comparisons. This past season saw Hoffman 10th on the team in 5v5 CF% (of anyone who played 25-plus games), but 16th in 5v5 xG%. The year before, Hoffman was again 10th on the team in CF%, but 20th in 5v5 xG%. So, if his even-strength numbers are so bad, especially his xG%, would the Devils even want to sign him? Well, maybe.

Fit on the Roster

Even though Hoffman is pretty abysmal at even strength, as a top-six winger and a power-play specialist, he wouldn’t be an awful fit for the Devils. The combination of the hiring of Mark Recci and Hoffman’s elite ability on the power play could be lethal. This could bump up the team’s power play effieciency from a below average 17.9% to a not great, but still respectable low 20%. Considering he has a fantastic shot and pretty good playmaking ability as well, he would be a great fit on the first or second line with Jack Hughes. 

So, now that we have established roster-wise that he wouldn’t be that bad of a fit, what’s holding the Devils back from signing him? Simple, he’d be asking for too much money compared to what his services provide.

Both Evolving Hockey and Dobber Sports project an average annual cap hit of around $6,500,000, with the former saying a five-year deal. Due to Hoffman’s lack of effectiveness at even strength, that is way too much for him. 

This is especially true for the Devils, who have been rumored to be running on an internal salary cap of around $75 million. This would leave the Devils with around $12 million in cap space after signing their restricted free agents.

I am not a general manager whose job it is to know this stuff, but even I know that if you have $12,000,000 in cap space you do not spend more than half of it on a guy who is barely effective most of the time. So, if this is common sense to me, I am sure it is for general manager Tom Fitzgerald and the rest of his staff.

Conclusion

On a contract for south of $5,000,000 on a three-year deal, Hoffman would be a fantastic addition for any team looking to improve their top-six. The problem, just like so many other free agents that have been covered in this series, is that he’s going to ask for way more than that. Technically would he be a good fit for the Devils? Yes, but logistically? No, because of the cap situation of both the Devils and the entire league.

This is going to have to be yet another pass for me, which is a shame because on a good contract I would love to see Mike Hoffman repping the black and red. Honestly, the time to get him was when he was being shopped for an extremely low price the summer. Hopefully, for Hoffman, he gets a nice long contract for the price he wants in free agency, but he should not be getting it with the Devils.

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