Last week Alex Chiasson went to arbitration. My article argued that he should get $1.4-million, and he in fact got $1.2-million. Based on that success, I've decided to try my hand at a more difficult player: Mike Hoffman. He goes to arbitration on July 30. Here's a look at some comparables.
First of all, here are his comparables from a raw numbers perspective. His 48 points put him tied for 95th in the league with Mikko Koivu, David Desharnais, and Valtteri Filppula. This was also right around Mats Zuccarello, Tyler Toffoli, Tyler Bozak, Brendan Gallagher, Jaromir Jagr, Loui Eriksson, Ryan Kesler, and Marcus Johansson. Hoffman's 27 goals put him tied for 27th in the league, along with Logan Couture, James van Riemsdyk, Gustav Nyquist, Marian Gaborik, and Mike Cammalleri. So whereas Chiasson was on par with fourth-liners, Hoffman's numbers put him in line with some pretty hefty company.
Of course, these numbers hardly take into account context. Hoffman gets fewer minutes than most of these players. From an offensive standpoint, that gives his numbers a huge boost. (All subsequent stats at even strength, courtesy of War On Ice.) Hoffman finished 12th in points-per-60 among players who played at least 20 games with 2.54, sandwiched right between Nikita Kucherov and Ryan Strome. Hoffman put up 1.43 goals-per-60, good for third in the entire league, behind only Rick Nash and (shockingly) Jason Zucker. This put him ahead of Corey Perry, Vladimir Tarasenko, Steven Stamkos, and Patrick Kane, among others.
In case you were worried about Hoffman's production being unsustainble, he was also a shot machine. He put up 199 shots, good enough for 64th in the league. He had less ice time per game than any of the 63 players ahead of him. His 10.06 even strength shots per game put him 27th among players with at least 200 minutes, one spot ahead of Tyler Seguin.
Hoffman also finished 7th on the team in share of even-strength shot attempts (Corsi). However, looking at his stats compared to the rest of the team, there may be some signs of weakness here. His PDO of 103.43 was fifth, behind only Shane Prince, Matt Puempel, Mark Borowiecki, and Chris Neil. (Side note: Borocop and Neil are due for some major regression next year? That's probably not good.) If you don't really follow advanced stats, here's what you need to know about PDO: it's the sum of your team's shooting percentage and save percentage while you're on the ice. Unless you're Sidney Crosby (I'm assuming you're not, though if you are, thanks for reading Mr. Crosby!), your PDO averages out to 100%. So Hoffman having 103.43 says he's probably due for a healthy dose of bad luck, or at least not-as-good luck. He also received the cushiest zone starts on the team. You expect a player who starts in the offensive zone a lot to have some favourable numbers.
I've almost hit 500 words, and I haven't even touched on salary yet. I guess that's what I meant about Hoffman being a tougher task than Chiasson. He has lots of great numbers, but only over one full NHL season, and with a couple of red flags attached. Clearly, guys like Seguin should be thrown out as comparables. Koivu is another bad comparable, since he's seen as a top-rate defensive centre. Hoffman, rightly or not, is not trusted as a defensive player.
A month ago, Anders Lee was signed to a four-year, $3.75-million-per-year extension. Lee is also 25, and finished with 25 goals and 16 assists in 76 games, compared to Hoffman's 27 goals and 21 assists in 79 games. This seems like a good starting point, because of the age, production, and pedigree similarities. Gustav Nyquist signed a four-year, $4.75-million-per-year extension a couple weeks ago. However, Nyquist has two seasons of better production than Hoffman, and this extension is for UFA years as well. Hoffman's expected one-year deal won't have to consider this.
Two more similarities could come from the Canadiens. Desharnais was 26 when he signed a four-year, $3.5-million-per-year extension. Gallagher was 22 when he signed a six-year, $3.75-million per year extension with the Habs. Both of these players have had similar production to Hoffman over the past year.
One last tool that I also used on Chiasson is War On Ice's Wins Above Replacement tool. Hoffman clocks in at 15.78 games above replacement for 2014-15, 37th in the whole league. This puts him right around Kucherov, Nicklas Backstrom, Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Toews, and Colin Wilson. Once again, relatively elite company. Wilson re-signed earlier this week for four years and $3.75-million-per-year. He's also 25, but with considerably more NHL experience than Hoffman.
The Senators will look to Mark Stone's $3.5-million per year and Mika Zibanejad's $2.625-million per year as comparables. They will point out that Stone had more points and better defensive acumen, and that Zibanejad has a lot more NHL experience, and then hope that Hoffman comes in at $2.5-million. I really can't see that happening. Working on this article before the filing numbers came out, I had Hoffman penciled with a $3.6-million award. I really can't see the arbitrator overshooting Hoffman's number though. For this reason, I think Hoffman comes in at $3.3-million. The Sens may have won with Chiasson, but they won't with Hoffman. He's been too successful to be had for that low. I was honestly expecting him to file at $4-million, and for the arbitrator to split the difference. Instead, I expect the arbitrator to look at his reasonable request and jump right on board. And next year he could easily have the Sens regretting they lowballed him instead of locking up his prime years.