Bruins

Should Bruins gamble on free agent Mike Hoffman? Yes, for one year

Bruins

The Boston Bruins are in dire need of a top-six winger, and that need become even more pressing on Tuesday when the team announced that its two best offensive players, first-line wingers David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand, would be out until at least January after having surgeries in September.

Pastrnak is expected to miss five months from the date of his procedure, which would be mid-February. If the 2020-21 NHL season begins Jan. 1 -- which is the target date from the league and NHLPA -- then the Bruins could be without their leading point producer and the sport's co-leading goal scorer for about a month of the next campaign.

Luckily for the Bruins, there are still a few good wingers on the free agent market to pursue, and Mike Hoffman is one of them. TSN's Frank Seravalli reported Tuesday that Hoffman can be had on a one-year contract worth around $6 million and that Boston is among the teams most interested in him.

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The Bruins should take the risk on Hoffman only if they can sign him for one year.

Hoffman is not without flaws. He's not a great defensive forward. Although, as a team that plays with a strong defensive structure, the Bruins are better equipped than many other clubs to absorb a player like Hoffman and not get burned in the defensive zone. Boston ranked No. 7 in shot attempts against, No. 2 in shots on net against and No. 1 in goals against at 5-on-5 last season, per Natural Stat Trick. So, Hoffman wouldn't be joining a bad defensive team.

 

Another red flag is much of his offensive production is reliant on the power play. Hoffman's 0.77 5-on-5 goals per 60 minutes over the last three seasons rank 117th among forwards with 1,800 minutes played during that span (h/t Bruins_Stats on Twitter).

Secondary scoring was arguably the Bruins' biggest weakness in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and while the signing of veteran right winger Craig Smith was a very good addition for the B's, he's best suited on the third line. The Bruins still need another top-six forward, preferably one who can play on the second line next to playmaking center David Krejci.

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Hoffman's goal scoring has been consistent. He has tallied 20-plus goals in six straight seasons, including 29 goals in 69 games last season.

This kind of scoring production would be great for the Bruins with a full, healthy lineup. It's even more valuable when Pastrnak and Marchand are potentially not going to be available to begin next season. If Marchand is sidelined to begin 2020-21, Boston's left wingers on opening night could be Jake DeBrusk (if re-signed), Nick Ritchie, Anders Bjork and Sean Kuraly. It's not the best group of left wingers, to be kind.

If the Bruins sign Hoffman, they probably wouldn't have the salary cap space and/or need to keep left winger Jake DeBrusk. Boston has around $11 million in cap space right now, with free agents Zdeno Chara (UFA), Matt Grzelcyk (RFA) and DeBrusk (RFA) to consider bringing back. If the Bruins did sign Hoffman, trading DeBrusk for a defenseman probably makes the most sense.

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A long-term deal for Hoffman would make little sense for the Bruins. Their window to win a Stanley Cup is next year and 2021-22 at most. Giving him a multi-year contract at above $5 million per season would likely be a horrible move. He'll be 31 years old in November and his declining 5-on-5 production is worrisome. 

But for the 2020-21 season alone, Hoffman's proven goal scoring and power play skill would be valuable to the Bruins given their situation. They must add more offensive punch to their lineup to avoid another disappointing playoff exit in 2021.