The Blues made it official on Mike Hoffman, signing the free-agent forward to a one-year, $4 million deal Monday. And they’ve all but settled on their opening-day roster by waiving nine players.
Hoffman, the former Florida Panther, has been with the Blues throughout training camp on a professional tryout contract (PTO). Apparently (wink-wink), the tryout went well.
Hoffman celebrated his signing with: “Here we go STL!!” on his certified Twitter account.
In discussing what Hoffman could bring to the Blues’ offense, general manager Doug Armstrong said last week: “I think it’s his release. His ability to score from distance. You look at the number of goals he’s got over the last couple of years, you just don’t do that by accident in the NHL.
“So I think he brings us a different element. A player that can play off the attack and off the rush well, which is important for us I think in today’s NHL.”
Since becoming a full-time NHL player in 2014-15 for the Ottawa Senators, Hoffman has scored at least 22 goals every season including a career-high 36 for Florida in 2018-19. Over those six seasons, he is tied for 16th in goals (169) and tied for eighth in power play goals (59) among all NHL players.
So the Blues have added a premier scorer to the lineup. Hoffman, 31, will open the season on a line with Jaden Schwartz and Robert Thomas, and has a spot on the first power play unit.
While Hoffman officially joined the roster, forwards Sam Anas, Jacob de la Rose, Mackenzie MacEachern Curtis McKenzie and Nathan Walker left the roster on waivers. So did defensemen Mitch Reinke, Steven Santini and Jake Walman, plus goalie Jon Gillies.
Look for several of those players to end up on the Blues’ six-man taxi squad if they clear waivers Tuesday. Walman, in particular, had a strong camp. He was one of the best players on the ice in Sunday’s scrimmage at Enterprise Center, flashing speed and playmaking ability. He didn’t score in the scrimmage but hit the goalpost twice with shots.
MacEachern has played in 80 regular-season games for the Blues over the past two seasons, including 51 last season when he scored seven goals. De la Rose, acquired in the Robby Fabbri trade with Detroit on Nov. 6, 2019, played in 34 games for St. Louis last season with one goal.
In terms of making the opening-day roster, MacEachern and de la Rose fell victim to a deep roster at the forward spot.
“Up front, I think our team’s pretty set,” coach Craig Berube said after Sunday’s scrimmage. “We’re pretty deep.”
Striking MacEachern ($900,000 cap count) and de La Rose ($700,000 cap count) from the roster is also needed to help the Blues become cap compliant by Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline. That’s also when the team must turn in its opening-day roster to the NHL.
The Blues will place Alexander Steen on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) on Tuesday, which erases his $5.75 million cap count from the team’s ledger _ another move needed to reach the overall team salary cap limit of $81.5 million. Steen announced his retirement last month.
On Wednesday, the Blues are expected to place forward Vladimir Tarasenko on LTIR, as he continues his rehabilitation and recovery from offseason shoulder surgery.
The Blues had an off day Monday but return to the ice Tuesday with a noon skate at Centene Community Ice Center before flying off to Denver. They’ll open the 2020-21 season on Wednesday against Stan Kroenke’s Colorado Avalanche.
Eight other players not expected to make the opening-day roster were waivers exempt. So with the American Hockey League not expected to start play until February at the earliest, they’re basically in a holding pattern right now although a couple could end up on the taxi squad.
The eight waivers exempt players are forwards Tanner Kaspick, Hugh McGing, Jake Neighbours, Austin Poganski and Nolan Stevens; defensmen Scott Perunovich and Tyler Tucker; and goalie Joel Hofer. At age 18, Neighbours will head to the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League once that junior league starts playing.
The result of all this maneuvering could leave the Blues with this 23-man opening roster once Tarasenko goes on LTIR:
Ivan Barbashev, Sammy Blais, Tyler Bozak, Kyle Clifford, Mike Hoffman, Jordan Kyrou, Ryan O’Reilly, David Perron, Zach Sanford, Brayden Schenn, Jaden Schwartz, Oskar Sundqvist, Robert Thomas.
Robert Bortuzzo, Vince Dunn, Justin Faulk, Carl Gunnarasson, Torey Krug, Niko Mikkola, Colton Parayko, Marco Scandella.
Jordan Binnington, Ville Husso
It should be noted that Mikkola, who had an impressive camp, is waivers exempt so he could begin the season on the taxi squad. Under that scenario the Blues could begin the season with seven defensemen and a roster of only 22 players _ or one under the roster limit.