Not Re-signing Zach Hyman Was Smart

Re-signing Zach Hyman
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It was an amicable breakup. After the 2020-2021 season Zach Hyman‘s contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs had expired. He had played six seasons for his hometown team and became a fan favourite. A hard-nosed player who could also contribute to the scoresheet. His grit and tenacity were endearing qualities on a team that lacked both. That made it much harder for the organization and the fans to end the relationship. But his value had increased. Everyone knew that another team would ante up with an offer that would go beyond the Leafs’ willingness to go.

Even when relationships end harmoniously, there is still sometimes a tinge of regret or doubt. That is where many in Leafs Nation now stand. Watching Hyman with new teammates Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Evander Kane lead the Edmonton Oilers to the Third Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs brings doubt and a feeling of “What could have been?” An ex-partner has moved on. Now they are thriving. The worst-case scenario. In those times, it’s hard to envision better days ahead. Even though it may not seem like it, the Leafs made the right choice in not re-signing Zach Hyman.

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Leafs Made Right Decision In Not Re-Signing Zach Hyman

Hyman Contract Was An Overpay

Like many free-agent contracts, Hyman was overpaid. He signed at age 29 for seven years and $38.5 million. This is not a knock on his ability. He reached free agency at a time when he had outperformed his previous contract. For his last couple of seasons in Toronto, he was underpaid. It was his one-and-only chance to ink a large contract in both term and value. You can’t fault him for his choice. Plus, he would still get to play alongside superstars.

For the Leafs to offer this kind of term and value would have been a mistake. No matter how much they may have liked Hyman as a player and person. One of the most common errors organizations make is offering too much money and term to middle-of-the-roster players. Despite his talents, a contract with an AAV of $5.5 million is overpriced for a player of his ilk.

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Backend Years Of Long-Term Contracts Are Risky

The Leafs know first-hand the danger of a long-term deal to an aging player. They took a risk in signing John Tavares to a seven-year, $77 million during free agency in 2018. All of the chatter after yet another first-round exit is how Tavares has lost a step. Speed was never his calling card. If coaching and management determine his skating has become detrimental to the team, it has options. He could move to the wing, where skating issues are less pronounced. He can still be used in tight spaces on the power play. Finally, his underrated face-off ability would still be of great use.

Hyman, on the other hand, plays a more physical game. The strongest element he brings is his ability to forecheck. He also kills penalties. But, he is undersized. Battling in the corners with large defencemen and numerous shot blocks is eventually going to take a toll. The Oilers are going to regret adding the extra term to his contract.

Hyman Capably Replaced on Leafs’ Roster

The Stanley Cup Playoffs notwithstanding, he was capably replaced on the Leafs’ roster by Michael Bunting. He rode shotgun with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner for most of the season. That line was considered one of the best in the NHL. Bunting added twenty-three goals and is in the running for the Calder trophy. He was signed to a team-friendly deal with an AAV of $950,000. While not the dogged forechecker that Hyman is, he adds other aspects to the team. He draws many penalties for the Leafs’ potent power play. In addition, he scored a similar amount of goals.

Hyman lighting it up during the Stanley Cup Playoffs doesn’t help ease the pain for the Leafs and their followers. But before this spring, he had 13 career playoff points in 32 games. Also, while the Oilers have made the Third Round, it’s still unlikely they bring home the Stanley Cup. They will have to get by the favoured Colorado Avalanche. Then, should that happen they would probably face a motivated Tampa Bay Lightning team going for a three-peat.

So, yes the pain of an ex-partner moving on, excelling, and seemingly very happy is hard to take. But, chin up Leafs fans. Better days are ahead.

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