Mike Hoffman has new comments about his desire to stay with the Ottawa Senators amid the contractual dispute he has faced with the team as a restricted free agent.
“That’s obviously my no. 1 goal,” said Hoffman, referring to his preference to stay with the Senators. “I love Ottawa. I love the fans here.”
Hoffman elaborated by stating that his main priority right now is to try to get a deal done with the front office.
Hoffman’s arbitration hearing is on August 4th, which is when an independent arbitrator will hand down a ruling on what value Hoffman’s contract will be for next season.
If he plays out this season on a 1 year contract awarded by an arbitrator, he will be eligible to to be an unrestricted free agent next offseason.
It is encouraging that Hoffman has a fondness for playing in Ottawa, and his comments are going to put a lot of public pressure on the team to get a deal done.
Clearly he wants to remain in Ottawa long term, but he also wants to do so on a contract that is fair according to the skill and production he brings to the team.
The front office has been playing a very risky game with Hoffman. They want him to show that he can go an entire season without the prolonged scoring droughts he has been known for, particularly down the stretch.
Just because a player hasn’t done something doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of it. Based on their negotiation tactics, this is the front office’s way of saying that they don’t think Hoffman can elevate his game to that level of consistency.
These newest Hoffman comments are validating what had already been previously assumed: that the front office was the reason this deal hasn’t gotten done yet.
Hoffman expressing his admiration for Ottawa is great for their chances of retaining him as an unrestricted free agent next offseason if they are committed to, but if he ends up having a career year next season, his price tag is not only going to escalate based on his performance, but also through the bidding war that will initiate among teams looking for a bonafide goal scorer on the free agent market.
So even if Ottawa is confident that they won’t lose Hoffman next offseason, the price tag will likely be even higher than it is right now.
The Senators can lock up Hoffman long term at a cheaper price now than they’d be able to next offseason.
Of course, that’s assuming that he scores somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 goals next season, which I think he will.
For the Senators’ negotiation stance this offseason to make any sense at all, they’d have to assume he’s not going to.
Still though, their tactics don’t make complete sense, because his price tag isn’t going down no matter how long they wait. Unless he gets injured or significantly regresses to the point that he doesn’t top 20 goals next season, Hoffman will get his money from someone.
Hoffman has a skill that is high in demand. If the Senators don’t assume that at least one out of the 29 other teams would give Hoffman the contract he’s asking for now, they’re egregiously out of touch with how talented Hoffman is.
That brings up another possibility that the Senators simply don’t think he’s that good, and refuse to sign him to a long term contract because they think they can spend that money better elsewhere.
It’s puzzling, because players with the realistic potential to score 30 goals per season don’t come around every day.
They have a chance to ensure that one is in their lineup for the foreseeable future, and don’t seem to recognize this great opportunity to secure one before the price tag likely goes way up.
Maybe if Hoffman scores somewhere around 27-29 goals for a third straight season next year, the Senators will oblige him with that contract. But again, the price tag would only be higher at that point as Hoffman has more career goals under his belt.
The only way Hoffman’s price tag goes down next offseason is if he stumbles severely, and that’s a counterproductive gamble for the Senators to make.
Hopefully the front office doesn’t have to go through the embarrassment of seeing Hoffman walk out the door next offseason.
It sounds like his heart is in Ottawa, but if the Senators don’t view him fairly, no player should be faulted for going to a situation where he is more valued.
The Senators should lock up Hoffman just before he’s poised to take that next step forward, which looks increasingly soon. They risk having to pay him way more next offseason to keep him.