It's no secret the Blue Jackets entered the 2020 offseason seeking to upgrade their offense.
With the acquisition of Max Domi from Montreal, they believe progress has been made. But to keep up in the new Central Division, they'll have to score more goals–and as it stands now, it's worth a discussion if they're better off now than six months ago.
That's why GM Jarmo Kekalainen monitored the free agent market throughout the break, hoping to find a budget-friendly addition to his forward group (yes, he signed veteran Mikko Koivu in October, but the 37-year-old is likely to play a depth role).
Mike Hoffman has scored more goals than just about everyone on the Blue Jackets' roster in the last few seasons, and he remained available until Sunday, when he agreed to a pro tryout (PTO) with the St. Louis Blues. Hoffman is, in all likelihood, going to sign a one-year deal with the Blues once they're able to move Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko to long-term injured reserve.
Did the Blue Jackets have interest? Sure. To what degree that interest was, we may never know. The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun reported Monday that as many as 16 teams contacted Hoffman's agent, with the Blue Jackets among those who kept in regular contact until his PTO in St. Louis.
The hurdle here, of course, is the Blue Jackets' oversized elephant in the room: an as-of-yet unsigned Pierre-Luc Dubois. Columbus' No. 1 center is a restricted free agent without a deal as training camp beckons later this week (heard that before?), and any financial commitments would be risky without him signed to a new contract.
LeBrun reported – as you could probably surmise – that Kekalainen preferred to wait until Dubois was signed before getting aggressive on another forward. That choice has taken the Blue Jackets out of the mix for Hoffman, Mikael Granlund and others they had been linked to in previous weeks and months.
But in a year fraught with challenges, many of them financial, the Blue Jackets simply couldn't spend freely or without acknowledging the pressing business in front of them.