Florida Panthers: What is Mike Hoffman’s Future in Florida?

SUNRISE, FL - DECEMBER 8: Mike Hoffman #68 of the Florida Panthers skates for position against the New York Rangers at the BB&T Center on December 8, 2018 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
SUNRISE, FL - DECEMBER 8: Mike Hoffman #68 of the Florida Panthers skates for position against the New York Rangers at the BB&T Center on December 8, 2018 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Finding an elite powerplay goal-scorer is not a simple task. The Florida Panthers are lucky to call Mike Hoffman their guy, but with an expiring contract, what should the organization do with the 29-year-old left-winger?

On June 19th, 2018, Dale Tallon pulled the trigger on acquiring Mike Hoffman from the San Jose Sharks. It was a bit of an odd deal, he was traded by the Ottawa Senators earlier that day and was later flipped to wind up in South Florida.

Luckily for the Panthers, Hoffman’s trade value was at an all-time low after alleged off-ice issues surrounding his fiance and Erik Karlsson’s wife.

When it was all said and done, the deal only cost the Cats a fourth-round and a fifth-round pick in 2018 as well as a second-round pick in 2019. Not bad for a guy who had recorded four consecutive 20+ goal seasons.

In his first year as a Panther, Hoffman notched a career-high 36 goals and 70 points. It’s safe to say he exceeded expectations.

Back in late July of 2016, Hoffman signed a four-year contract valued at $5.187M per year. He’s now entering the final year of that transaction, and it won’t be cheap for Florida to retain his services.

Which brings us to the main point of this article: what should the Panthers do with Mike Hoffman?

It’s easy for fans to sit back and fantasize about what they would do if they were in charge, but the reality of the situation is quite complicated. It all depends on where the team sits entering the trade deadline.

There is a case to be made that Dale Tallon and friends should re-sign the goal-scoring winger because his quick release and powerplay domination is hard to come by. The only issue with that line of thinking is Hoffman’s impending price tag.

Let’s use Jeff Skinner’s most recent contract extension as a point of reference. This past June, Skinner inked a new deal with the Buffalo Sabres netting him a cool $9M annually for the next eight years. Sure, Skinner is more than two years younger than Hoffman and has a career average of 0.37 goals-per-game compared to Hoffman’s 0.34, but their value isn’t too far off.

Hoffman could, and probably should be looking for at least six years at around $7-8M a year. Now, you may think that sum is far too much money, but let’s look at another recent signing to get a better idea of the current market.

Anders Lee is another forward who signed a new contract this summer. The New York Islanders gave him seven years at $7M annually, and for an analytical point of view, Hoffman is a better player. Lee scored 28 goals and recorded 51 points while Hoffman put up 36 goals and 70 points.

I understand that point-scoring isn’t the only consideration taken into account when negotiating a new deal, but there’s no doubt that Hoffman is the more daunting offensive threat. He is worth at least $7M a year.

The Panthers’ front office is going to have to make some difficult decisions next season. With Evgenii Dadonov also entering a contract year, there will undoubtedly be some moving parts. It would be unwise to re-sign both unless the two players give up cash in accepting a hometown discount, which seems unlikely.

After giving Sergei Bobrovsky a massive seven-year $70M contract, the team needs to be mindful of their other players that will need to be re-upped in the coming years.

Vincent Trocheck and Aleksander Barkov will require new contracts in 2021-22 while Jonathan Huberdeau‘s deal ends a year after that. Those guys are this team’s core, and Tallon can not risk losing any of them.

So, back to the matter at hand. Hoffman is the type of player who can break games wide open. If the Cats are in a playoff position entering the trade deadline, I think you have to keep him. If he walks and they get nothing for him, so be it.

Remember, the Panthers only traded away three draft picks to acquire him and none were first-rounders. If they can get on a deep playoff run with his assistance, then his time in Sunrise will have been a smashing success.

I do not see a situation where Hoffman starts the 2020-21 season in South Florida. The best that Panthers fans can hope for is that he can help propel them to postseason prosperity.

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Mike Hoffman has been nothing short of electric during his time with the Panthers. However, with his contract ending after this season, it seems unlikely that he will return once his deal is up. It’s time for fans to sit back and hope the Cats can make a splash in the postseason while Hoffman is still a Panther.