The Success of Zach Hyman Must Torment the Toronto Maple Leafs

Ex-Leaf signed with the Edmonton Oilers during the summer of 2021. His contract has looked like a bargain ever since.

Feb 21, 2024; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Zach Hyman (18) celebrates after scoring a goal.
Feb 21, 2024; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Zach Hyman (18) celebrates after scoring a goal. / Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
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A Look at the Positives of Not Resigning Hyman

There is no doubt that Hyman's likely 50-plus goals would look great on the Leafs. Resigning him would have also solved the problem of finding a first-line winger for Matthews and Marner.

Scoring goals, however, has not been the Leafs problem. Hyman has excelled in Edmonton, but he is not a line-driving player in the mold of Matthews, Marner, Nylander, McDavid, or Draisaitl. The Leafs rightfully were budgeting for signing their stars.

And don't forget, aside from this season, and ignoring the power-play (where Hyman wouldn't likely get much opportunity in Toronto since they use one loaded unit he wouldn't be on) Bunting's 5v5 was equal or better than Hymans' in each of the last two years.

It's really only this year that Hyman has been so insanely good that the Leafs regret it.

This season's play from first-line left winger, Matthew Knies has been inconsistent, but the Leafs are in their third season of using a league-minimum player in Hyman's old spot and that adds a ton of value elsewhere in the lineup.

Knies' play is likely to ascend in future seasons at a lower cost and percentage of the salary cap. He is the type of player (young, cheap, and talented) that the Leafs should surround their stars with.

Lastly, it is unlikely that Hyman's play will continue to elevate. He still has four years remaining at a $5.5 million AAV. Turning 32 this summer, it is still possible the contract may not age well.

Even if it does, the Leafs made the right move to let Hyman walk. As your players hit 30, you have to let some of them go or you end up like Chicago after their Cup wins - just a bunch of old overpaid players you can't build a team around. The Leafs don't want to waste the last years of Matthews and Marner like the Hawks did with Toews and Kane.

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In the short term, the Toronto Maple Leafs most likely look at Hyman's success in Edmonton with a tinge of both envy and regret. Yet, if they look hard enough, there is still a bright side to another ex-Leaf excelling in someone else's uniform.