March 2, 2018 | 8:36pm ET
By Anthony Di Marco, The Fourth Period
FLYERS KICKED TIRES ON HOFFMAN
Mike Hoffman, left wing
MONTREAL, QC -- As the NHL Trade Deadline came and went at 3pm ET on Monday, several notable names moved in the minutes leading up.
Evander Kane is now California dreaming with San Jose, Paul Stastny is battling for first in Winnipeg, and Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller are getting out their bathing suits in the Sunshine State. Some other notable names went in a few days before the deadline, like Rick Nash going to Boston and Derek Brassard heading to Pittsburgh, as teams began to load up for the playoffs.
But despite so many Eastern Conference rivals loading up like the Penguins, Bruins and Lightning (not to mention the New Jersey Devils, who landed rental-wingers Michael Grabner and Patrick Maroon), Philadelphia Flyers GM Ron Hextall saw the deadline come and go with making little noise.
If it were not for the duel injuries to goaltenders Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth, Petr Mrazek would’ve probably never been acquired by Philly from the Detroit Red Wings. But out of respect and loyalty to his team, Hextall made the move to grab a proven NHL goaltender. Then on deadline day, Hextall made a minor move claiming veteran rearguard Johnny Oduya off of waivers (along with losing Mark Alt on waivers to the Avalanche). Besides that, Hextall stood pat.
Although no major moves are made, it has recently been confirmed to me by a source close to the situation that Hextall had in fact inquired about one of the best forwards on the trade market.
With the Ottawa Senators in the midst of a tire fire of a season, the sky seems to be falling and everyone not named Mark Stone was available on the team’s roster. Who was one of the names who have been right in the thick of trade talks?
The 28-year-old has been one of the Senators’ most consistent forwards the last few seasons. Since joining the Senators on a full time basis in 2014-15, Hoffman has reached the 25-goal plateau in each season (with his career high being 29 in 2015-16), and has a chance to do so again this year (18 goals, currently). A consistent 25-goal scorer and a natural left wing (a position of which the Flyers are thin at) is exactly what the doctor would order for Philadelphia.
A player like Hoffman would not come at a low cost, and that proved to be the case as talks never really got any further than the feeling out process. The starting point for which it would take to pry Hoffman away from the capital city of the True White North was believed to be rookie defenceman Travis Sanheim and a first-round draft pick as a starting point, along with another roster player – Scott Laughton’s name may have popped up.
Although the price is steep, the argument to have pulled the trigger on such a deal is one that is fair. Hoffman is in no way a rental, as he carries a contract that expires in the summer of 2020, when he will be 30 years old, and comes with a rather modest cap hit of just over $5 million per season. Grabbing a consistent 25-goal scorer for a guaranteed two years at that price is hard to find.
Aside from the cost certainty that would be guaranteed with Hoffman, the Flyers desperate need to bolster the aforementioned rather thin position of left wing is evident. For most of the season, the Flyers have iced Claude Giroux, Jordan Weal, Jori Lehtera and one of Jakub Voracek or Travis Konecny on the left side. Aside from Jordan Weal, none of those players play the position naturally. Bringing in Hoffman would give the Flyers the first true top-six, natural left wing the team has had since Scott Hartnell.
With the Flyers having recently loaded up the top two lines, it has left a rather steep drop off into the team’s bottom-six. For the last month or so, the bottom-six group has been made up of Lehtera, Weal, Michael Raffl, Laughton, Valterri Filppula and Dale Weise. Of those six, Filppula (who played the first two months as the second line centre) is the only one to have more than 20 points this season. Hoffman’s addition could help the Flyers’ secondary scoring, especially once Wayne Simmonds returns from injury.
But even considering all these factors, one has to ask themselves: would Hoffman’s addition catapult the Flyers’ into Stanley Cup contention? Would his addition be enough to give up the assets necessary in a top level prospect and a first-round pick in a highly touted draft class?
Even though the Flyers currently find themselves in the top five of the Eastern Conference and second in their division, the teams around them all added significant pieces at the deadline. The Lightning and Penguins, who were picked by many to show down in the Eastern Conference Final, both made massive additions to their roster, and now arguably have the best defensive group and forward group, respectively.
The Flyers recent run has left many fans hungry for success and anxious for a big name acquisition, but patience is a virtue. The future continues to be bright in Philadelphia, and in the end, this year was not a “make it or break it” year for Hextall. Considering this, he probably made the right call to steer clear of Hoffman and hold onto his assets. The idea to have added an offensive weapon is great, but this is not the time to give up a massive ransom for a high-octane forward.
The season continues to go according to plan for Hextall, as he continues to coordinate his attack properly. When the time is right, he will strike, but that time was not right now.