In his second season with the Florida Panthers, forward Mike Hoffman put together another respectful campaign, leading up to his eventual free agency.
Ever since the Florida Panthers acquired Mike Hoffman’s services from the San Jose Sharks, the 30-year-old sniper has been nothing shy of a legitimate goal threat. Prior to his arrival, the Panthers lacked a power-play scorer, evident by their low rank in the special teams department each year.
GM Dale Tallon recognized this and took a chance on the winger, despite previous controversies surrounding his name back in Ottawa. All of that was put aside, allowing Hoffman to start with a clean slate in South Florida. His teammates accepted him with open arms the moment he arrived, giving him the confidence to do what he does best: which is to score.
In his first season with the Cats, the Kitchener native recorded a career high of 36 goals to go along with his 34 assists, totaling a personal best of 70 points. It was truly his best season from a statistical standpoint as Hoffman even led the team with 17 power-play goals – an impressive figure.
Mike Hoffman certainly lived up to the hype in his first season with his new club, but would he be able to transfer that over in his second campaign with Florida? Without a doubt, Hoffman experienced yet another successful year with the Panthers, tallying 29G, 30A, for 59 points in 69 games. Unfortunately, the Coronavirus pandemic led to the shortening of the 2019-20 season; however, it still didn’t lessen Hoffman’s impact by any means.
Sure, he finished with less goals – as expected due to the shortening of the season – but had the season not been cut short due to COVID-19, Hoffman would’ve had a realistic shot at matching his 36 goals from last year. Besides, Hoffman still led the team in power-play goals along with Evgenii Dadonov, who matched his tally with 11 each.
Playing in 13 fewer games this year – due to a circumstance that he, along with everyone else, didn’t have control over – and still scoring 29 goals is still imposing. To put that into perspective, he he was only seven goals off from his previous tally (36) in 13 fewer outings, a substantial amount of games that could’ve decided whether he surpassed, equaled, or fell short of the mark.
Like Dadonov, Hoffman will also be an impending UFA at the end of the year, but before he hits the free agent market, Hoffman will first take part in the Panthers’ play-in series with the New York Islanders – an opportunity for them to show their fanbase, along with the rest of the league, if they are ready to take the next step.
Hoffman will undoubtedly have to play a large role if the Panthers are going to see life past the qualifying round. Against a stubborn defensive team in the Islanders, goals are going to be hard to come by, evident by their three meetings with them this year that they lost, so anything additional that comes from guys like Hoffman will be instrumental if they are going to be victorious.
As a soon-to-be UFA, it’s difficult to predict where Hoffman will end up, but based on the Panthers’ cap situation for the upcoming offseason period, it’s unlikely that they’ll have the necessary space to bring back Hoffman on his terms with enough money leftover to address other areas of concern.
Considering that Florida have two Hoffman-like replacements waiting in the pipelines in Owen Tippett and Grigori Denisenko, bringing him back on what’s likely going to be on a sizeable contract (both with money and term) just wouldn’t make sense from a cap standpoint.
Tallon knows that he can only realistically choose between one of Hoffman or Dadonov to re-sign, and there’s even the chance that he doesn’t bring back both. But whether or not Hoffman returns, it’s still been a good two years for him personally, one where he was able to contribute meaningfully while increasing his value before making his ultimate decision on where he will play in 2020-21.
But before he sits down and chooses his preferred destination, he still has some unfinished business with the Panthers starting in August.
For Mike Hoffman, these past two years couldn’t have gone any better for him personally, and come the time when he does sit down to decide his future, he certainly is going to have a lot of options to weigh.