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Identifying The Top Weakness Of The Stars Roster As It Pertains To The Upcoming Trade Deadline

The Dallas Stars’ biggest guns have been their best players so far this season. Unfortunately, the rest of the roster has been a bit hit or miss. In particular, there seems to be a lack of scoring punch on the wings. Could Ottawa’s impending fire sale help?

NHL: Ottawa Senators at Tampa Bay Lightning
The Stars could use some offense on the wings. Mike Hoffman does that, and might be available.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

This year, in place of a yule log, NHL GMs appear to be clustered around the flaming wreckage of the Canadian Tire Centre. With a 12-point gap between the Ottawa Senators and the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot, a sell-off seems inevitable. Thanks in no small part to recent :gasp: honesty, star defenseman Erik Karlsson is drawing most attention, and Taylor looked at Karlsson’s fit in Dallas earlier this morning.

But there’s another name that could interest the Dallas Stars when they look at the Ottawa roster: Mike Hoffman.

Hoffman is a 28-year old left winger coming off three consecutive 20+ goal seasons (27, 29, 26 goals since 2014). Point-wise, he compiled 49 points in 2014, 59 the following year, and 61 last season. No, level of production isn’t going to usurp time from a certain other Stars left winger, but he wouldn’t be competing against Jamie Benn. Hoffman, as a scoring threat, would represent a reasonable upgrade over the likes of Mattias Janmark, Devin Shore, Brett Ritchie, and whatever other Stars winger is occupying a top six role on any given night.

His 13 goals with the extra man last season could serve to give the Stars’ second unit legitimate teeth either directly or indirectly by nudging someone down the lineup. Hoffman would also add a direct element to the Stars’ offense. So far this season, Hoffman has attempted 219 shots on net and managed to get 125 of those shots on-frame. That compares favorably with the likes of Benn (185 TSA, 120 SOG), Tyler Seguin (264 TSA, 163 SOG), and Alexander Radulov (163 TSA, 94 SOG).

Finally, his contract, while not cheap, isn’t exactly a cap-destroyer. Hoffman’s cap-hit is just under $5.2 million per season through 2019-2020. Kari Lehtonen’s $5.9 million falls off the books after this season (as does Dan Hamhuis’ $3.75 million), Jason Spezza’s $7.5 million after next, and Martin Hanzal’s $4.75 runs through 2020/2021. That’s roughly $22 million trimmed over what would be the lifespan of his deal. It gets a little tough this season (the Stars have roughly $1.1 million today and will have $2.6 million at the deadline), but figuring out the math shouldn’t be insurmountable.

Of course a Tyler Seguin-shaped elephant lurks over any salary conversations. Seguin’s sweetheart $5.75 million per year deal expires after next season. You have to think the Stars are going to tread lightly to ensure they have enough money to lock their goal-monster up long term, but again, it’s possible to fit Hoffman into the squad. The key in that scenario would be meaningful contributions from cost-controlled assets like Julius Honka ($863k) and Miro Heiskanen ($925k), and the team’s recent ability to plug and play pretty much anyone from Cedar Park into the bottom half of the lineup.

There are other warts. Hoffman’s immediate numbers (9 goals, 15 assists, 24 points) do not scream “must-have-free-agent.” There’s also the fact that Ottawa, as a whole, has struggled mightily. If you give him a pass for struggling on a bad team, don’t you also have to assign him some of the blame as one of the primary pieces from that struggling team? Is he not scoring on a bad Ottawa team, or is his not scoring making Ottawa a bad team, in other words. The Stars would certainly hope a 7.2 shooting percentage and 96 PDO speak to the former, but it’s a definitive risk.

Whether or not the Stars take a run at Hoffman specifically, he should be instructive as a target. Outside of their top unit, the Stars have struggled to manufacture goals this season. They’ve also struggled to find the right line combinations and more generally on the road (8-11-2 versus 11-4-1 at home) where last change particularly harms unbalanced offenses.

Mike Hoffman, or a player like him, could help the Stars ice a second scoring line, and the cascading effect of that could be significant.