Blues sign Hoffman to tryout agreement for training camp

STEPHEN WHYNO
AP Hockey Writer
In this Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020, file photo, Florida Panthers left wing Mike Hoffman celebrates his goal against the New York Islanders during the third period of an NHL Eastern Conference Stanley Cup playoff hockey game, in Toronto.

Mike Hoffman signed a professional tryout agreement with the St. Louis Blues on Sunday, a possible precursor to him getting a contract with them for the NHL season prior to opening night.

Hoffman will go to training camp with the Blues, who will only have salary-cap space to sign him after putting fellow wingers Vladimir Tarasenko and Alex Steen on the long-term injured list. Hoffman is coming off a 29-goal season with the Florida Panthers, the highest total of any unrestricted free agent.

St. Louis will have roughly $4 million of long-term injury relief to sign Hoffman after submitting its initial roster. The 30-year-old should help compensate for Tarasenko's absence after another shoulder operation, as he has recorded 20-plus goals and 50-plus points in each of the past five seasons.

The defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning also made a cap maneuver Sunday, trading depth center Cedric Paquette, defenseman Braydon Coburn and a 2022 second-round pick to Ottawa for injured players Anders Nilsson and Marian Gaborik. Tampa Bay was in a bind against the $81.5 million cap even after learning top-line winger Nikita Kucherov will miss the regular season with a hip injury that requires surgery.

Hoffman wasn't the only veteran who went the tryout route Sunday. Veteran goaltender Craig Anderson signed a PTO with Washington, and defenseman Kevin Connauton with Florida.

Anderson, 39, would bring experience to the Capitals' net after Henrik Lundqvist announced a heart condition would keep him from playing this season. With goalie of the future Ilya Samsonov expected to shoulder the load, they had 2014 second-round pick Vitek Vanecek penciled in as the backup, though Anderson could fill that role or be the third option on the taxi squad.

“I think it’s evolving,” general manager Brian MacLellan said this week of the goaltending situation. “We’ll do our due diligence on the guys who are out there. And if we see somebody that fits, that has experience, that’s willing to accept a certain role, we’re open to adding a guy, too. We’re open-minded, but we also like where we’re at.”

The seven teams that didn't make the playoffs last season are allowed to start training camp as soon as Dec. 31, with the rest of the league following Jan. 3. The 56-game regular season is set to open Jan. 13.