By Bob Trask – The Montreal Canadiens are currently carrying too many wingers on their roster and someone will be the odd man out. Players like Jesse Ylönen and Michael Pezzetta could find themselves back in Laval and the Canadiens could decide that it is also a good place for Juraj Slafkovsky to become acquainted with the North American game. But a couple of names stand out as potential trade candidates and one of them is Mike Hoffman.
He might have some appeal to a team that grades average or below on left wing talent and who have the playoffs in mind. Teams that are in rebuilding mode or who are strong at the left wing (LW) position would likely have no interest in the Montreal left winger. Hoffman’s success over the years on the power play might also interest playoff contenders even if they are already strong on left wing.
Travis Yost of TSN rated the LW position for all NHL teams and among contenders the LA Kings were deemed to be “in trouble” at LW. They were followed by the Pittsburgh Penguins whose left wingers ranked as “under-perform”. Tampa, Washington, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Vegas, Boston, the Islanders, the Rangers and Edmonton were all ranked as having average left wingers. If a team is looking to make a playoff run, they want to be above average, but the question remains whether Hoffman is above average or not.
Poor Power Plays
The other criteria mentioned was the power play. If we consider contenders who are in the above group and who did not have a top ten power play last year, the list is narrowed down to Dallas, the Islanders, Boston, Winnipeg, Pittsburgh, Ottawa, Washington, Vegas and Los Angeles. In fact, the Kings 27th ranked power play in the league.
The fly in the ointment for all of these destinations is cap space. Some teams have it; some don’t. And some that do have cap space remaining still need that space to round out their rosters.
Narrowing the list down even further, Washington, Vegas, Boston and Pittsburgh are already over the cap but may be able to create some room with LTIR. That leaves Dallas, the Islanders, Winnipeg, Ottawa and Los Angeles among potential destinations with cap space. Ottawa has already had their experience with Hoffman and can probably be stricken from the list. The teams all have players to sign and those contracts could put them into a cap crunch.
For teams tight to the cap, one solution would be for Montreal to retain salary but general manager Kent Hughes has demonstrated his aversion to that approach. The other is to take a similar contract back in return with either the player’s position or the term remaining on the contract being a better fit for the Canadiens.
The Short List
The market looks limited but Dallas could use a LW to replace the departed Alexander Radulov, the Islanders and Los Angeles both look to be in need of scoring punch from the left side and the Winnipeg situation remains a mystery with uncertainty surrounding Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and Pierre-Luc Dubois along with the impending departure of Paul Stastny.
Los Angeles is interesting if for not other reason the Marc Bergevin, the general manager who signed Hoffman to his latest contract, now toils for the King. Dallas is interesting because they have veteran goaltender Anton Khudobin on the roster and signed for one more year – and the Habs may be looking for goaltending depth. No one can ever figure out what Lou Lamoriello’s next bizarre move will be but he might have an interest in Hoffman.
Montreal would have to take back a contract to make any trade with Los Angeles work. The problem is that there aren’t a lot of contracts that fit into the required category. The Habs could take back Brendan Lemieux’s contract but subtracting him and adding Hoffman would still put the Kings over the cap. The Kings also need to sign a couple of RFA defensemen and are already sitting with 15 forwards under contract. Sean Walker is a RD who carries a $2.65M contract for the next two year and is currently on the injury list, playing only 6 NHL games last year. From the Montreal side, they might have to add in a sweetener as they did in the Jeff Petry trade and perhaps it could involve dipping into their stable of LD.
Potential trade: Mike Hoffman and Otto Leskinen for Brendan Lemieux and Sean Walker.
In the case of a trade with the Dallas Stars, I have already mentioned the possibility of including Khudobin in the deal but Hoffman may be regarded as more valuable asset than the Stars’ goaltender. With only one year left on his contract he provides additional depth while the Canadiens monitor Cayden Primeau’s progress. Dallas certainly aren’t going to give up Mavrik Bourque, Logan Stankoven or Wyatt Johnston in any trade but with these three, the team is deep in center ice prospects. Perhaps Ty Dellandrea could be a sweetener from the Stars.
Potential trade: Mike Hoffman and a 4th round pick in 2023 for Anton Khudobin and Ty Dellandrea.
No matter how much Lamoriello likes veteran players, a trade with the Islanders seems like a long shot. They need to sign one more depth defenseman and should still be marginally under the cap once that is accomplished. There are few contracts that New York could offload to Montreal in any deal. In fact the only one that makes any sense is Anthony Beauvillier, the 25 year old French Canadian left winger who has averaged 18 goals per 82 games over his career. But that production tapered off rather dramatically last year to 12 goals in 75 games. Still, it is hard to believe that Lamoriello would trade a 25 year old LW who had an off year for a 32 year old LW who had an off year. But the Islanders farm system is pretty much empty and the Canadiens with a pipeline of prospects and draft picks could sweeten the pot.
Potential trade: Mike Hoffman and a depth defenseman (Leskinen again?) for Anthony Beauvillier and a 5th round pick.
There are teams that could use Mike Hoffman on their roster and at his age, Hoffman doesn’t seem to fit into the longer term plans of the Montreal Canadiens. The challenge for Kent Hughes, if he is trying to move Hoffman, is finding a deal that makes sense for both sides. These three trade ideas represent reasonable possibilities.