The St. Louis Blues are the big winners of December free agency.
Yup, you read that correctly, the Blues, not the Boston Bruins, were able to land the ex-Florida Panthers sharpshooter despite being $1.5 million over the hard cap heading into training camp. But… how could this be? How could the Blues sign Hoffman – a player many assumed would garner $5.5-6.5 million in 2021? Does that mean the team is totally out on intriguing RFA defenseman Vince Dunn?
Buckle up, my friend; this is going to get fun.
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Yes, the Blues are technically over the cap heading into training camp, but as Elliotte Friedman of TSN pointed out in his excellent breakdown here, by signing Hoffman to a non-guaranteed tryout contract, that doesn’t really matter. As you (probably) already know, non-guaranteed tryout contracts (PTOs) don’t count against the cap, so teams can sign whomever they like to such a deal, even 31-year-old shooters who have scored 20-plus goals in each of the last six seasons.
Granted, the Blues would then need to extend Hoffman to a legit NHL contract to play for the team in the regular season, a condition made impossible if they remained hard-pressed to the cap, but for now, it isn’t an issue.
Fortunately for the Blues, they won’t be stuck in cap purgatory for long, as they’re expected to get a windfall of $13.25 million when they place Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko on Long-Term Injured Reserve – enough money to sign Hoffman and Dunn to new one-way deals in time for the regular season.
While the Blues will still potentially need to make another corresponding move to make room for Tarasenko when he returns later in the season, they can freely give Hoffman and Dunn their money now and kick that can a few weeks/months down the line.
So, for those keeping track at home, the Blues were able to turn one hurt shooter into another and free up enough money to sign Dunn without so much as having to part with a veteran piece via trade a la the Arizona Coyotes’ decision to ship Derek Stepan to the Ottawa Senators? My goodness, someone needs to put Doug Armstrong’s name into consideration for the Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year Award.
Now members of the incredibly top-heavy West Division – a division that features the Coyotes, Anaheim Ducks, the Los Angeles Kings, the Minnesota Wild, and the San Jose Sharks filling out the bottom five teams – St. Louis may actually be better positioned to once again secure a top playoff seed despite their new surroundings and diminished schedule length.
So Doug Armstrong, for fans of the St. Louis Blues the world over, I’d like to give you a hand for shirking the salary cap like a true wizard to not only land one of the most exciting remaining free agent forwards on the market but do so without damaging the team’s playoff chances in the newly formed West Division. You truly are one of the best around.