Let’s admit it right off of the bat - very few Blues fans were expecting to have a discussion about Mike Hoffman returning to the team in June. Honestly, heading into last off-season, no one expected the Blues to kick the tires on Hoffman. Last December, they signed him to a PTO, and he impressed enough at camp to be signed to a one year show me contract worth $4 million. Considering Hoffman was a player whose lowest goal total over the previous five seasons was 22 (and who just came off of back to back seasons with the Panthers where he scored 29 and 36 goals), he didn’t strike anyone as a liability.
He’s known for being a power play specialist, and this season seven of his 17 goals and 17 of his 36 points came with the extra man on the ice. The Blues’ power play struggled to start the season thanks to changing personnel due to injury, and the team itself began to stall leading up to the trade deadline. Hoffman was bounced around, eventually landing on the third line - unable to find himself a good fit for a Craig Berube coached team. He’s not big, he’s not strong on the puck. You get him the puck, preferably on the power play, and he shoots. That’s his m.o. He’s not necessarily defensively sound, he’s not someone you turn to for a strong backcheck.
It got him scratched on March 28 against the Ducks, and again on April 8th against the Golden Knights and April 9th against the Wild. That many scratches of an asset that could bring a return points toward one thing: trade bait.
Then the Blues started to play better heading into the deadline. The power play clicked. Hoffman wasn’t dealt, and that was a good thing for the Blues. You could argue that his eight goals and seven assists on the man advantage was the difference maker that got the Blues into that last playoff spot.
The Blues’ power play finished the regular season sixth overall in the league with a 23.2% effectiveness rate, which outmatched the rest of their West Division opponents - even the dangerous Avalanche. It began the year near the bottom of the league.
While the penalty kill never really improved much, and finished the year 25th overall at 77.8% effectiveness, the power play was finely tuned down the stretch. The extra man advantage got the Blues into the playoffs; you could argue that the penalty kill prevented them from finishing higher in the standings. The Blues don’t get that push without Hoffman.
Is that push worth a $4 million, multiple-year deal? Doug Armstrong said in his end of the year media scrum, that he could see Hoffman returning - but it’s not like he would say otherwise. There’s no point cutting off your nose to spite your face before you do your due diligence with free agents. The focus will probably be on re-signing Jaden Schwartz if possible and getting some oomph on the left side, but Armstrong is going to have to work to replace Hoffman’s production down the stretch if he lets him walk. A healthy Tarasenko could help out there, but that’s no guarantee.