Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion was so pleased to get Mike Hoffman under contract that he hugged another member of the club's management team.
The Senators and Hoffman, Ottawa's leading scorer this past season, avoided going to arbitration by agreeing to a four-year contract worth nearly $21 million.
“This is a great day for the organization. I shouldn't tell you this, but I actually hugged (director of hockey operations) Randy Lee today,” Dorion said on a conference call Wednesday shortly after the announcement of the deal, which carries a $5.19 million annual cap hit.
“Obviously we see Mike as a huge piece of our team going forward.”
Hoffman led the Senators in goals for the second straight season, hitting a career high with 29 goals. He also set career highs with 30 assists, 59 points and a team-leading nine power-play goals.
The 26-year-old was particularly pleased to avoid arbitration for a second straight summer. Hoffman was awarded a one-year, $2 million deal through the process last summer, his third consecutive one-year contract. His new deal doesn't expire until the end of the 2019-20 season.
His arbitration hearing was scheduled for Aug. 4.
Ottawa was most intrigued to see what impact new head coach Guy Boucher could have on the Kitchener, Ontario, native. Hoffman starred for Boucher in junior with the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, scoring 98 goals over two seasons while capturing the league championship in 2009.
“The thing that's exciting about Mike Hoffman is he's going to play for a coach that, without divulging too many secrets, that simply adores him,” Dorion said.
Dorion was particularly excited by how Boucher, formerly the Tampa Bay Lightning head coach, planned to use Hoffman on the power play.
Hoffman seemed to clash at times with Dave Cameron, the former Senators coach who was fired at the end of last season. Cameron benched Hoffman for the entire third period of an early March win over Toronto before dropping him to the fourth line.
Hoffman had 46 even-strength points, second to captain Erik Karlsson among Senators. His 56 goals over the past two seasons rank 19th among all NHL players.
“Obviously I had to prove myself again,” Hoffman said. “I didn't want to just be a one-hit wonder kind of guy and last season I think I kind of showed what I can do in this league.”
Hoffman could have become an unrestricted free agent next summer, but the Senators opted to buy three years of unrestricted status. The new deal carries a limited no-trade clause (a list of 10 teams) that takes effect in the 2017-18 season.
Dorion said a new deal wasn't close last month at the draft, but the sides made progress on term and dollars last week. Dorion was discouraged again on Monday though before meeting with Hoffman's agent Rob Hooper on Tuesday.
The sides came to an agreement a day later.
Twenty-two-year-old defenseman Cody Ceci is the only Senator still unsigned. Ceci is a restricted free agent, one whom Dorion said will be in the lineup when Ottawa opens the regular season.
“I can assure you that Cody will be playing for us on Oct. 12,” he said.
Asked about the prospect of 40 goals for Hoffman, a former fifth-round pick, Dorion responded, “I hope! But I definitely see more than 29,” he said.
“I see an improvement. I definitely see someone who's going to step forward, take a bigger role on our team, not just score goals, but help us win games. I see someone who's been a good player in the NHL, but who can grow even further.”