UFA Profile: Mike Hoffman is too expensive of a risk to take

Over the next couple of months, we’ll be looking at possible free-agent fits for the Edmonton Oilers. Today, we have Mike Hoffman

One of Ken Holland’s priorities this off-season will be finding a left-winger to play alongside Connor McDavid.

Ideally, that player has the wheels to keep up with the captain, plays a strong two-way game that allows McDavid to go all-in on rushes, and, perhaps most importantly, has the ability to put the puck in the back of the net.

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If we’re looking at wingers who can score goals on this fall’s free-agent list, Mike Hoffman’s name immediately pops out. Hoffman had the most goals (29) and points (59) of any player heading into free agency this year and, at a glance, looks like an ideal fit on McDavid’s left.

He’s been a high-level producer ever since he broke into the league back in 2014-15 with the Ottawa Senators. In his rookie season, Hoffman buried 27 goals and 49 points. Since then, he’s eclipsed the 20-goal and 50-point plateau in every season of his career, highlighted by a career-high 36 goals and 70 points with the Florida Panthers in 2018-19.

That’s undoubtedly great production, but, if we dig a little deeper, we get a different idea of where it comes from.

Between the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, which Hoffman has spent as a member of Florida’s lethal top-six forward group, he’s produced 1.74 points per 60 minutes at even strength. For the sake of comparison, that’s in the same category as names like Zack Kassian, Drake Caggiula, and Andreas Athanasiou.

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Of his 129 points over the past two years in Florida, 56 of them have come on the power-play. That’s 43 percent of Hoffman’s offence coming with the man-advantage.

Now, that isn’t a slight on Hoffman. Being a weapon on a power-play and racking up points with the man advantage isn’t a bad thing, it just doesn’t fit with Edmonton’s current needs. The Oilers boasted the best power-play in the league last season. They need players who can drive play and produce offence at even-strength, so spending the ~$6-million annually that will likely be needed to sign Hoffman doesn’t really make sense at this stage.

Beyond that, at 30 years of age, a long-term deal to Hoffman is right at that risky point where a player’s production can fall off a cliff. Two years ago, James Neal was 30 years old and inked a big contract after a 25-goal season. Since then, his even-strength production has completely cratered.

While finding McDavid a left-winger is definitely a priority for Holland this year, it isn’t as glaring a need as another goaltender or a third-line centre upgrade. Given the team’s tight salary cap situation, the search for that winger will likely have to come by searching for a more under-the-radar addition.

Hoffman’s boxcar numbers indicate an elite producer who would blow up alongside McDavid, but, digging deeper, it isn’t quite the fit Edmonton needs right now, especially at the anticipated cost. The Oilers already have an expensive power-play-only guy in James Neal, they don’t need to hand out a big deal to the next one.