In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll look at the increasing action around top-six team forward Zach Hyman. In doing so, I’ll comment about why my head and heart are sending me different messages.
To be right up front, the bottom line for me is that I hope Hyman re-signs with the team. However, I don’t believe the Maple Leafs should sign him to a contract that dis-benefits the organization’s plans moving forward.
A Realistic Look at the Value and the Cautions
I’m a Hyman fan. Those who’ve read my previous posts must know that. I think he’s not only a good hockey player, but he’s also an intelligent guy, a great teammate, and a mensch. He also has the intangible of being – similar to Jason Spezza – considerably low maintenance. That’s huge in my book.
My Maple Leafs’ heart tells me that the team is better off with him in the lineup – for probably the next four seasons. I’m not so worried about the salary – even if it goes to $5 million or even a bit over that; however, the sticking point for me would be the term. How long will Hyman remain effective? I wouldn’t bet on more than four seasons.
The very talents, skills, and drive that make me like him as a player also whisper that there are cautions. More than five seasons: sadly, not interested. I have to believe that the Maple Leafs’ organization knows it would be making a poor choice to sign Hyman to a long-term contract for a high amount of money. And, if there are other NHL teams willing to do so, this might be a time to ice the puck.
We Know that Hyman’s Been Given Permission to Speak to Other Teams
What we have heard from hockey insiders’ reports is that the Maple Leafs have granted Hyman’s agent Todd Reynolds permission to talk with other teams.
What we also know is that, at least according to Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star, almost immediately after it was revealed that Hyman had permission to speak other NHL teams ahead of free agency, about seven teams expressed interest in making an offer or let Reynolds know that they want to be on the list to be considered.
McGran wrote, “The Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, and Edmonton Oilers are believed to be the frontrunners in the Hyman sweepstakes with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Florida Panthers, Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings also making inquiries with Hyman’s agent, Todd Reynolds.” (from “Zach Hyman wants to stick with Maple Leafs but the offers are rolling in,” Kevin McGran, Toronto Star, 15/07/21).
Might Maple Leafs’ General Manager Kyle Dubas Pull a Rabbit From His Hat?
Here’s wondering – if Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas thinks the same way I do – that it’s better to either trade Hyman’s rights to another team for a prospect or engage another team in a sign-and-trade scenario. Perhaps the rumors that Hyman was willing to test the market as a UFA (unrestricted free agent) because there was such a huge gap between Hyman’s ask the Maple Leafs’ answer created an opportunity to at least get something instead of nothing for the highly-desired Hyman.
With Hyman generating so much interest from other teams – and why wouldn’t he, that feeding frenzy might just drive up the price. Yesterday, a Vancouver hockey writer reported that the Canucks were interested and might be willing to trade Brock Boeser for Hyman. In Calgary, a Flames’ writer reported that the team was a front-runner in the Hyman sweepstakes. It’s heating up!
Like him or not, Dubas isn’t a dummy and seems quite able to pull something from his hat when everyone is looking in another direction. Toronto has until July 28 to act. After that date Hyman becomes a free agent and the team no longer owns his rights.
Remembering David Clarkson, Kyle Okposo, and Milan Lucic
I have two thoughts. First, I’ve always thought Hyman would stay in Toronto because of his team and (especially) his family connections. It must a tough decision for him to move his young gamily away from their extended families’ homes. So, I’m surprised it’s come to this; and, I still think Hyman will re-sign in Toronto, but today I’m less sure than I was two days ago.
Second, I’m not going to be among those Maple Leafs’ fans who get bent out of shape if Hyman decides to leave or if Dubas and the organization pull off something creative that’s rarely done – a sign-and-trade. For me, Hyman’s age, his history of injuries, and the style of play Maple Leafs’ fans have come to appreciate are also warnings against signing him to a long-term deal. In that, he might be similar to Kyle Okposo and Milan Lucic, whose play eroded with age.
The Maple Leafs signing of David Clarkson comes to mind. Clarkson was highly-effective with the New Jersey Devils. He signed a seven-year, $36.75 million contract with the Maple Leafs on July 5, 2013. But, as he aged, he became less effective. Sadly, he suffered a series of upper-body injuries after the age of 30 and eventually became a line item on the Maple Leafs’ budget much like Phil Kessel’s salary retention today.
A long-term re-sign could become one of those contracts Maple Leafs’ fans might throw back at Dubas if Hyman slides. As a result, if it comes to re-signing Hyman for a longer-term or passing on him, I know what I would do if I were Dubas. I’d wish Hyman well and let him leave. In fact, that sounds exactly like what might be happening.