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Could Mike Hoffman Find a Crafty Way to Land With a Cup Contender?

Could forward Mike Hoffman find a creative way to get to a Stanley Cup contender and get paid what he wants in free agency?

One of the NHL free agents still on the board is winger Mike Hoffman. He’s arguably the best player available at his position, he’s not yet signed and there’s no doubt, 31 teams would love to have him in the right situation. The delay in Hoffman getting a deal is that he’s holding out for a good chunk of money and there’s not a lot of room on NHL clubs to add a player with his salary demands in a tight salary cap season.

Related: Mike Hoffman Good With 1-Yr Deal, Just Playing Waiting Game

Adam Vigan wrote on The Athletic last week that Hoffman’s agent, Robert Hooper said interest in Hoffman “has been very strong.” He added, “It’s just a matter of making it fit.” That makes one wonder, when is the best time to make that contract fit?

There’s potential for Hoffman to have his cake and eat it too. In other words, Hoffman might find a creative way of landing with a contender that would like him — someone like Boston, Edmonton, Colorado — , but still get close the the type of money he’d like by the time next season rolls around. It’s not an ideal situation and it’s definitely unorthodox, but it is crafty if the team that signs him plays along.

Thinking Long-Term vs. Short-Term

The traditional way an organization and player look at free agency is either a) find the right team or b) get the desired money. Most of the time, it’s either one or the other. But, that’s if a player and a franchise only look at things from the point of view of when a new season gets under way.

Essentially, what if Hoffman signed with a team like the Detroit Red Wings? It might not be the competitive team he’d choose if he had his pick of the litter, but they have cap room. One a one-year deal, the agreement could be that they’ll sign Hoffman with the intention to move him by the trade deadline. He’ll get a ton of playing time with the Red Wings in a top-line role. He’ll probably score well and produce often, making him attractive to Stanley Cup contending teams looking to add for their final run.

The attraction for those teams adding Hoffman at that time, versus now, is that he’ll cost a fraction of what he did if signed for the entire season and the Red Wings could retain some salary in a deal. For a team like the Red Wings, the bonus might be getting an asset like a draft pick at the deadline for a player they never intended to keep, thus helping their rebuild.

The acquiring team saves money, Hoffman winds up with a potential winner and the Red Wings trade money for an additional draft pick.

Mike Hoffman Florida Panthers
Mike Hoffman Florida Panthers

The only way this isn’t a good option for Steve Yzerman and the Red Wings is if the organization has other to-do items that are of higher priority and/or the team has a mandate not to waste money based on their own internal cap. Hoffman in this scenario is strictly a long-term rental.

It’s A Deal That Has Risks

For both sides, this idea isn’t perfect. Hoffman might not play as well as he’d like and he’d perhaps not garner interest at the deadline like both sides might expect. For the Red Wings, perhaps he doesn’t fetch the return they’d have hoped if he manages only 15-20 goals. In that scenario, the Red Wings wasted about $5 million and Hoffman plays out the year with a bad team and doesn’t have a shot to win.

But, the risks are mitigated as Hoffman says he’s open to a one-year deal and teams are said to be interested. The Red Wings (or a team like them) don’t have to commit and neither does Hoffman. If the experiment fails, he’s in the same spot next offseason trying to land as big a deal as possible in another tight market.

Next: Will Torey Krug Live up to Expectations in St. Louis?

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