A bad offseason for the Boston Bruins got even worse Sunday when the best remaining free agent forward chose to join the St. Louis Blues.
Mike Hoffman has signed a professional tryout contract with the Blues. St. Louis also signed former Bruins defenseman Torey Krug in free agency in October.
Hoffman was Boston's last good chance to sign a top-six forward on the free agent market. The 30-year-old veteran has weaknesses, and his defensive game is often subpar, but his goal scoring talent would have been a very nice addition to a Bruins forward group that needs another 25-plus goal scorer. Hoffman has scored 20-plus goals in six consecutive seasons, including 65 tallies over the last two years.
The Bruins likely will be without David Pastrnak when they start the season Jan. 14. Pastrnak, who led the B's in scoring with 95 points and was the co-league leader in goals scored with 48 last season, underwent offseason surgery in September. Pastrnak's absence won't be easy to overcome, especially in a shortened 56-game season where a poor start could prove costly.
The Bruins have not made the necessary improvements to a flawed team that was bounced from the second round of the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs by the Tampa Bay Lightning in just five games.
Krug, as noted above, left as a free agent. The Bruins have not replaced him with a comparable top-four defenseman, and their only way to do that at this stage of the offseason is via trade. Longtime captain and veteran defenseman Zdeno Chara remains unsigned.
The B's better hope Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo stay healthy for the entire season because the talent level after them is lacking.
Kevan Miller was re-signed but he hasn't played since April of 2019. Matt Grzelcyk has been a solid third-pairing defenseman, but it's not great if he's your best left-sided defenseman, which he is at the moment. Boston seems content with giving the kids a chance to prove themselves. It's not a bad move -- the team needs to see what they can do at the NHL level -- but it puts a lot of pressure on the likes of Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon and others.
Boston clearly does not have a Stanley Cup-caliber blue line as training camp nears.
The Bruins did sign veteran winger Craig Smith to a team-friendly three-year deal, but he's not enough to solve the club's secondary scoring woes. Second-line center David Krejci still doesn't have a legitimate top-six right winger.
The Bruins enter the 2020-21 season needing another elite performance from their goaltending tandem of Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. The B's led the league in save percentage and gave up the fewest goals per game in the 2019-20 regular season, and Rask finished second in Vezina Trophy voting. Rask will be under plenty of pressure to be red-hot coming out of the gate given the question marks on the Bruins blue line and the team's lack of ideal scoring depth.
The offseason has not gone as well as it should have for the Bruins, a team whose veteran core might have just one more run at a Stanley Cup title left in it.
Make no mistake -- the Bruins still have a really good roster, an excellent coach and some intriguing young players (Jack Studnicka, Vaakanaien, etc.) who could make a solid impact this season. But when you look at the team's lack of offseason moves, it's hard to envision a scenario where the Bruins return to the Cup Final.