Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Dubas’ Hot Seat & Losing McCann and Hyman

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll try to catch fans up to where the team sits after yesterday’s Seattle Kraken expansion draft. In addition, there are rumors that Zach Hyman is close to signing a long-term contract with the Edmonton Oilers that will move him out of his hometown of Toronto. If that’s the case, the team will need to respond to that possibility.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Matthews, Marner, Andersen & Hyman, Too?

First, I’ll discuss Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas’ message to the media after the expansion draft and where the team sits.

Item One: Kyle Dubas Is All in This Season

When Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas spoke to the media after the Kraken draft, one thing was clear. He remains all-in on the roster he’s built. As Dubas noted: “For better or worse, I believe in this group and I believe that they are going to get it done and I believe that they’re going to win.”

As fans can read in the quote above, Dubas understood that his decision might not be taken seriously because the team has little to show for their work. They haven’t yet won in the playoffs, Still, he believes they will. He also values them as players and as people; still, he seems to know that he’s on the hot seat and he says he’s comfortable with that decision.

Next season is the season, and he believes that fans will see “the best version of this group next season that we’ve seen yet.” He’s betting “everything on that.”

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Not even having to read between the lines much, you have the sense that Dubas believes his own fate lies with the fate of the team; and, I sure, there are many Maple Leafs’ fans who are happy with that fact. Among the readers on THW, there’s a sense that Dubas has messed up big time when he signed his “Core Four” of players to ultra-high salaries.

Dubas has faced much criticism for that strategy, and a large group of fans believe that former Maple Leafs’ general manager Lou Lamoriello would have been able to sign the players to cheaper contracts. Perhaps that’s true, although Lamoriello also signed some poor contracts himself.

Still, now it’s Dubas on the hot seat, especially after the team lost to the Montreal Canadiens by blowing a 3-1 series lead earlier this summer. It was the team’s fifth opening-round loss in a row, which moves the franchise’s frustration of playoff losses to 17 seasons without a series win.

Item Two: Can’t Miss Something You Never Had, Can You?

When the Seattle Kraken selected Jared McCann and not Kerfoot during the expansion draft, a number of Maple Leafs’ fans were happy; however, a number of fans were sad that the team couldn’t have saved McCann.

Alexander Kerfoot Toronto Maple Leafs
Alexander Kerfoot, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Dubas correctly knew that the Kraken’s general manager Ron Francis had wanted both versatile center/forwards Kerfoot and McCann. That’s what moved Pittsburgh Penguins’ general manager Ron Hextall to trade the 25-year-old McCann to Toronto on Saturday for 21-year-old prospect Filip Hållander (who was originally a Penguins’ draft pick) and a seventh-round selection in the 2023 NHL Draft.

With that move, Dubas lost a pretty good prospect and a seventh-round draft choice, but he held his roster together. Specifically, he kept his penalty-kill unit intact by saving Kerfoot and protecting Justin Holl. Obviously, if McCann flourishes in Seattle, there will be second-guessers; but, as noted earlier in the post, it seems that Dubas has chosen to inhabit that space for the coming season.

Funny thing with McCann. He never really was “on” the team, but fans feel he was “lost” in the draft.

Item Three: Is Zach Hyman Really Gone?

Although nothing has been confirmed as of the publication of this post, it looks as if the Edmonton Oilers and rugged Maple Leafs’ winger Zach Hyman are closing in on a deal. If the Oilers sign him, he’ll add a competitive aspect, speed, and versatility to the team. He’s been a great two-way forward for the Maple Leafs.  

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Even Maple Leafs’ general manager Dubas noted that Hyman earned every cent he’ll make – wherever that might be. There was little doubt that Hyman was going to receive a contract bump, but few seemed to believe he get a maximum-term deal he’s reported to be ready to sign.

The latest rumor I’ve heard is that Hyman and his wife are in Edmonton to meet with Oilers’ general manager Ken Holland, and that the Oilers have offered him seven years at $5.5 million annual salary. There’s speculation that a sign-and-trade might happen between the two teams so the Oilers can spread the $38.5 million over eight years of term so as to lower the AAV a bit. If that’s true, it would be a contract that would be tough for the Maple Leafs to match. 

Zach Hyman, Morgan Rielly, Mitch Marner, John Tavares
Toronto Maple Leafs’ Zach Hyman, Morgan Rielly, Mitch Marner, and John Tavares (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh)

It looks as if Oilers’ general manager Ken Holland is stepping up big time with this deal. I’m guessing that the Maple Leafs (a) didn’t have the funds to match and (b) might not have thought that the 29-year-old Hyman had the capacity to be viable during his mid-30’s.

There’s no doubt that Hyman plays hard, but that’s a two-edge sword that might erode his skillset during his later years. At 29 years of age, he has a history of knee issues. Although I’m a huge Hyman fan, once my head overcomes my heart and consider the logic of this contract, it just might be a contract the team will be happy in a couple of seasons it didn’t match.

It might be that the Oilers know that, too. However, Holland (like Dubas) might be going all in to ensure that Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have their best opportunity to bring home a Stanley Cup; and, if that happens, who cares about Hyman’s viability in four seasons?

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

With all these moves – especially should Hyman actually leave – the Maple Leafs will look different for the 2021-22 season. If Hyman goes, the Maple Leafs have approximately $10 million in cap space to fill holes up front and in net. Obviously, the season hasn’t started yet, and there are more changes to make.

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Over the past two weeks, the team’s signed two players to two-year contracts. One was veteran forward Wayne Simmonds and the other was young defenseman Travis Dermott. That’s just a start. It will be fun to see how much this organization changes as the team makes changes in the next month.

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