The St. Louis Blues did not have a lot of room to mess around with money. Their general manager has worked some magic once again to keep the lineup near the top.
The St. Louis Blues are a team in a good deal of cap trouble. Their salary situation played a part in the team losing their captain and it seemed like the Blues would be mostly stuck in neutral.
Doug Armstrong is not one to sit by if he can figure things out. He has apparently figured out how to bring in Mike Hoffman without sacrificing too much.
Armstrong showed a stroke of genius by signing Hoffman to a professional tryout contract. This brings Hoffman to the city, gets him acclimated and practicing, but keeps him off the books until the Blues actually have the money.
According to Jeremy Rutherford of the Athletic, as well as others, the likeliest course for the Blues now is to keep Hoffman on the PTO until the season begins. Once the season starts, the Blues put Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko on the long term injured reserve list and gain the full value of those contracts as cap relief.
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According to Jim Thomas, if the Blues classified Steen on the LTIR right now, they would only gain the value of his cap hit minus the roughly $1.2 million the team was over the cap. If Thomas is right, the Blues will still have to tinker with salary to get that $1-plus million off the books, but Armstrong would not make this move if he did not have a plan.
Perhaps Armstrong will utilize the taxi squad, which is not held against the cap, to provide relief for a brief time. It’s hard to say for sure because the cap situation and ways around it make your head spin.
Of course, this is not a fool proof plan. Since Hoffman is only on a PTO, his rights are not the property of the Blues.
Any team could get a spur in their saddle and throw a bunch of money at Hoffman and he could bolt. At this point, that is unlikely, but the Blues swept in and took Scottie Upshall from the Vancouver Canucks a few seasons ago, so it does happen.
Nevertheless, this is a brilliant move by Army. Hoffman knows his value, so it is unlikely this is a true tryout.
All those on social media saying they hope Hoffman makes the team aren’t getting it. This is merely a way to get Hoffman into town to practice and also circumvent the salary cap for a few weeks.
The main question now is how much Hoffman will earn in 2021. If Hoffman receives the full value of Steen’s contract or more, the Blues will have a lot of moves to make.
The danger in this is that the Blues still have to sign Vince Dunn and also keep the option of Vladimir Tarasenko returning open. St. Louis cannot just throw money at Hoffman.
Still, it’s a stroke of genius to accomplish this. Hoffman is capable of playing a top-six role, but can also offer depth if the team chooses to place him on the third line with playmaker Robert Thomas.
Hoffman scored 36 goals with the Florida Panthers in 2018-19. He was on pace to break the 30-goal barrier in 2019-20, but the shutdown of the season clipped him at 29 goals.
Hoffman will still get you well above 50 points a year and also at least in the mid-20’s for goals. That’s a huge chunk of Tarasenko’s production made up for by one player, taking the stress off other guys.
The ultimate win for Armstrong would be to eventually sign Hoffman to a contract worth around $4 million, give Dunn around $1.5, which would equal what Steen’s savings give you. That would allow the Blues to keep he entire value of Tarasenko’s contract open for a possible return at some point.
Whether that happens is a guess. Hoffman may not want to take a cut, even for a year, from the $5.187 he was earning.
We will see. Again, it’s not a 100% guarantee Hoffman sticks with the Blues, but I’d say it’s 98% likely.
If Hoffman wanted to go elsewhere, he would have done it already. He knows the situation and seems like he wants to be with the Blues.
Talent-wise, he’s above a PTO and has little to prove. This is just a clever way to get around the rules, within the rules. A master stroke by Armstrong has netted a potential 30-goal scorer.