The Oilers addressed a major concern over the offseason in bolstering their top-six forward group by signing one of the bigger available free agent forwards in Zach Hyman, who was let go by the Toronto Maple Leafs. The 29-year-old forward signed a monster seven-year deal worth an average annual value of $5.5 million. Hyman played a key role for the Maple Leafs, mostly on the team’s top line with highly talented forwards in Auston Matthews, and Mitch Marner.
Even so, this move is a huge investment for the Oilers to make in a player who has had multiple major knee surgeries, never eclipsed 41 points in a single season, and is closing in on 30 years of age. Despite the controversy some associate with Hyman and his contract, he is a player who provides a significant upgrade at the position for the Oilers and will play a large role in making the team effective in many aspects of the game.
Hyman Provides Stability and Versatility
Hyman is seeing most of his time this season on the left side of the team’s top line alongside Connor McDavid and Jesse Puljujarvi. He is a player whose style meshes well with elite linemates like Mcdavid because of his ability to get in on the forecheck, create turnovers, and recover pucks in the offensive zone. He is not overly physical but uses his body well to maintain puck possession and get it to his more skilled linemates to open up opportunities.
Hyman is a unique player who does all the little things right, which makes him a coach’s dream. With Head Coach Dave Tippett not shying away from tinkering with his lines, Hyman becomes an even more valuable asset because of his seamless transition to play the roles.
Not only is Hyman effective offensively, but it’s his ability to be defensively responsible also makes him a versatile member of the organization. Due to his strong play in his own end, he is a large part of the Oilers’ improved penalty kill this season. Among his penalty kill duties, he is also seeing reps on the teams’ top power-play unit as the net-front presence. There are very few players that can be shuffled up and down the lineup while being key contributors on both sides of the special team’s units like Hyman. He is the Oilers Swiss army knife and can be relied on to do anything that is asked of him.
Character Player on and Off the Ice
Oftentimes there is an adjustment period when new players are signed and begin a new chapter with a new franchise but the transition for Hyman was a seamless one. His happy-go-lucky and team-first attitude makes him an easy teammate to get along with and his selflessness is noticed on and off the ice.
Even when he first joined the team in the offseason he skated with his new teammates all of which had nothing but positive things to say about Hyman’s mentality and character. It is important when building a championship team to have players who buy into every aspect of filling a role for the benefit of the team and there is no one that knows that better than Hyman.
“He brings an infectious amount of work that every team needs, We have, obviously, a lot of skill, a lot of talent. But to have that work ethic added to the fold, and just to push each and every day, I think we’re very fortunate to have him.”Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse
He strives to give his best effort, and his relentlessness and determination on the ice make his play infectious to other members of the team. He is not a vocal leader, but he lets his play do the talking by never giving up on a play. He is the energizing force on any line which is important in creating momentum swings within the game. His strong locker room presence, leadership in the community, and never-give-up attitude allow Hyman to inspire his teammates to play better.
Contract Is Not as Bad as It Seems
He started his Oilers tenure on fire, and through the team’s first 20 games sits fifth in team scoring with nine goals and 15 points. This secondary production that Hyman is providing is a big improvement from last season when the Oilers had Darnell Nurse and Tyson Barrie finish third and fourth highest in team scoring.
For a player who posted two seasons with 20 goals or more and 40-plus points, there are always teams lined up in free agency to acquire their services. It is not uncommon to see some of these contracts network out according to plan, but Hyman’s is not one of them. Compared to other players that have signed new contracts around the league as free agents you can argue that his seven-year deal is a value contract when considering the intangibles, unique skills set, and offensive production.
|Player||Current Age||Cap Hit (Average Annual Value)||Signing Year||Length of Contract||Best Offensive Season (Goals-Assists-Points)|
|Blake Coleman||29||$4,900,000||2021||6||22-14-36 (78 games played)|
|Evgeni Dadonov||31||$5,000,000||2020||3||28-42-70 (82 games played)|
|Chris Kreider||29||$6,500,000||2020||7||28-25-53 (75 games played)|
|Jaden Schwartz||29||$5,500,000||2021||5||24-35-59 (62 games played)|
|Zach Hyman||29||$5,500,000||2021||7||21-20-41 (71 games played)|
Hyman’s offensive numbers don’t necessarily jump off the page, however, the Oilers made a smart decision to offer him a contract that is similar to the ones that more one-dimensional players have received in recent years. Having the luxury of a forward that can play multiple positions and situations with a high offensive floor rather than paying for a scoring forward in the hopes they have a career season, is what makes Hyman’s deal worthwhile.
Hyman Checks All the Boxes for Oilers Needs
Hyman’s unique skillset and versatility are what make him an important member of this organization. Despite the hefty contract and cap hit he carries, it won’t be hard for him to be able to live up to the dollar figure because of his ability to be an effective player in many aspects of the game.
If he can continue to play the way he did through the first month of the 2021-22 season Oilers fans will soon look around the league and see that the Oilers have a complete all-around player on a reasonable contract for the foreseeable future.
I am a graduate of Seneca Colleges Civil Engineering Technology Program and have turned my obsession for sports into a lifestyle. I cover the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings here on The Hockey Writers but have been a diehard Maple Leafs fan since birth. I love fantasy sports, collecting sports memorabilia and when I’m not watching the Toronto Raptors, Blue Jays, or Pittsburgh Steelers; you can find me playing for my ball hockey team, playing video games, or listening to classic rock with a cold one or a coffee in my hand.