In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll share some of the news emerging from the Maple Leafs’ organization. As well, I’ll look at and comment about a new rumor that suggests Zach Hyman will likely be moving on to another NHL team.
Item One: Auston Matthews’ Season is Recognized by Other NHL Players
The annual National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) player’s poll was just released. I encourage hockey fans of all teams to take a look at this poll. What makes it so interesting is that the NHL players actually voted for their colleagues – other players. I find that interesting and informative.
The results of this season’s poll report that the Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews is garnering some appreciation by his colleagues in two areas. First, he was voted to be the NHL’s top goal scorer. When NHL players were asked the question: “Who is the best goal-scorer?” one third of the players chose Alex Ovechkin, who’s already sixth on the all-time NHL goals list. However, Auston Matthews came in first in this category when he received almost half the overall vote (46.27 percent).
Matthews is this season’s “Rocket” Richard Trophy winner and led the NHL in scoring with 41 goals this season even though he was injured. Coming in third place was the Boston Bruins’ David Pasternak with the Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid coming in fourth.
To the question “Who has the best shot?,” Ovechkin garnered almost half of the votes (48.95 percent) with Matthews coming in second with 28.75 percent. Matthews also came in fourth in the question “Who is the best stick-handler?” with 2.52 percent. Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks was the runaway winner with 49.48 percent.
By the way, Matthews also won another category. When NHL players were asked, “Which player is the most fashionable?” their answer was Matthews. There he gained 21.16 percent of the votes. The only other Maple Leafs’ player who made the top five in any list was Mitch Marner under the category “Who is the best passer?” Marner came in fifth in that category with 5.71 percent of his colleagues’ votes.
Item Two: Hockey Scribe Believes Zach Hyman Won’t Be with the Maple Leafs
In an article yesterday, James Mirtle of The Athletic reported his belief that Zach Hyman would likely be heading for unrestricted free agency in July. He noted two reasons for his statement. First, he reported that his sources tell him there haven’t been substantial talks about a contract extension for several months. Second, he believes Hyman will probably be offered a long-term contract for around $6 million this offseason as a free agent on the open market and he simply doesn’t believe the Maple Leafs could match that number.
Mirtle noted that it was unclear if a hometown discount might be involved; however, he knew the Maple Leafs would have trouble making a $6 million contract work within the space remaining on the upper limit of the team’s salary cap. That’s especially true because the clock is ticking before Hyman can start speaking with other teams about a contract. (from “This appears to be the end for Zach Hyman as a Maple Leaf,” James Mirtle, The Athletic, 16/06/21).
If you’ve read my posts over the past month, you’ll know that (a) I don’t believe Hyman is motivated by money but rather other values and (b) I believe Hyman is so grounded in Toronto that I can’t see him leaving. Rumors or not, I think he’ll stay with the team. That said, I admit sometimes I get it wrong. However, I think it would take something quite special for him to leave. I hope I’m right.
Item Three: Jason Spezza Re-signs with the Maple Leafs
In no surprise at all except maybe the timing (with the Seattle Kraken draft coming), Jason Spezza re-signed a one-year contract with the team. Again, no surprise, the contract is at the new NHL league minimum of $750,000 (last year it was $700,000). It’s Spezza’s third consecutive one-year deal with Toronto.
There’s no doubt that Spezza adds great value to the team. His performance in 2020-21 was outstanding, especially given that he played fourth-line minutes. In total, he scored 10 goals and 20 assists (for 30 points) in 54 games. In addition, he was one of the few players on the team to have a productive playoff series on the score sheet when he added three goals and two assists in his seven playoff games.
It sometimes strikes me how good a deal the Maple Leafs are getting from Spezza. He’s nothing short of a fantastic bottom-six player. Playing about 10 minutes each game, he scored 30 points in 54 games. He takes tough defensive zone face-offs and wins the majority. He fills in on the power play. He’s great value for the team, and I wouldn’t be surprised if other teams would jump at the chance to have that kind of production and flexibility on their fourth lines.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Recent news is that Martin Marincin signed a contract with HC Ocelari Trinec of the Czech Extraliga. Marincin would have been eligible to become a UFA this summer and obviously saw the writing on the wall with the Maple Leafs after a 2020-21 season where he didn’t see a minute of NHL action.
Although I know he wasn’t seen as having great value by many Maple Leafs’ fans, I thought he played well enough when I watched him. I just wanted to note his leaving the organization and wish him luck back home in Slovakia.
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf