If there’s one thing fans in Toronto are learning — assuming they didn’t already know — it’s that forward Zach Hyman is extremely valuable to this Toronto Maple Leafs team. He might not get all the glory and he might not be front and center when most media cover the team, but he’s quickly becoming known as an asset the Leafs need.
As such, there’s been some talk lately about how important his upcoming contract extension is going to be. A pending unrestricted free agent, Hyman is not a player the Leafs want to lose. He’s absolutely going to get a hefty raise over and above his current $2.25 million salary, but with every game his play improves and the more often head coach Sheldon Keefe relies on him, the more Hyman’s value goes up.
TSN’s Darren Dreger was a guest on TSN 1050 and spoke about a potential future contract extension between Hyman and the Maple Leafs and wondered what those numbers will look like. Not long ago, some might have guessed that close to $4 million might have gotten it done. Now, that’s not a given. Dreger thinks there’s a real sense Hyman could fetch more than $5 million per season if he hits the open market and that’s dangerous territory for Leafs’ GM Kyle Dubas.
While Hyman often flies under the radar, teams are noticing his production — 8 goals and 16 points in 26 games –, what he brings every night and the fact he’s a player that can drive his own line. Dreger said, “So to suggest he’ll be a coveted free agent is fair.”
The rest of his Leafs roster knows what Hyman means to the club as well. “He’s been lights out,” Auston Matthews noted after a big overtime win against Winnipeg. Matthews added, “You know what you’re gonna expect from him every night, and he’s extremely easy to play with because you know he’s just gonna get in there and battle and work.” Matthews says he’s happy for Hyman too and says his production and improved play has “been pretty fun to watch.”
Luke Fox of Sportsnet talked about how Hyman is bursting out of the “dogged forechecking and selfless penalty-killing” box. He still offers all of those things, but he’s also becoming a more creative and confident player with a proficiency for dynamic offense. Fox writes, “This may be a longwinded way of saying the Maple Leafs need Hyman.”
Does Hyman Need the Leafs?
The question now will be how badly Hyman needs to stay with this Maple Leafs team to really grow and become the player some think he could be. Fox suggests that Hyman has always professed a desire to stay put and notes the forward has already taken a hometown discount as an RFA. Will he continue to feel that way as the market grows more interested in his services?
Dreger notes, “I just don’t know that Zach Hyman has any interest to going to the open market and we’re not going to know that until the negotiations begin with the Toronto Maple Leafs and they haven’t.” Many believe the two sides will wait until after the expansion draft to minimize exposure risk.
By then, what will Hyman be worth? It could be a lot more than he was just a few months ago and, perhaps even more than he potentially is today.
Fox suggests the Leafs might be hoping Hyman is willing to accept extra years and salary bonuses in order to keep his cap hit workable and everybody happy. We’ll see if that’s on the table by the time this regular season and potential postseason run for the Leafs is over.
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