Earlier today, the news was crushing. The Edmonton Oilers lost Adam Larsson, their top shutdown defenseman, to the expansion Seattle Kraken. Fast-forward 13 hours and the news appears better for the Oilers. GM Ken Holland and his staff are closing in on their top free agent target.
According to NHL insider Elliotte Friedman of ‘Sportsnet’, the Oilers could potentially be welcoming forward Zach Hyman to the organization as early as Thursday.
“I think you could potentially see a Zach Hyman deal in Edmonton and we’ll see if Toronto makes a trade with them so Hyman can get the 8th year and Toronto can get a draft pick out of it,” Friedman said following the expansion draft. “The Maple Leafs are a little short of draft picks.”
This comes on the heels of a report from Jason Gregor of ‘TSN1260‘ earlier on Wednesday. Gregor reported that Hyman arrived in Edmonton and was meeting with the Oilers in person on Wednesday afternoon. Clearly, that meeting went well.
Hyman is likely to command a contract that exceeds his value. As Friedman points out, there is the possibility that this deal will go the maximum eight years. At the very least, it feels like Hyman will get six years. There will be term here.
In terms of pay, sources have indicated that the Oilers were hoping to land Hyman somewhere in the $5,000,000 – $6,000,000 range. We’ll see if the added term results in a better AAV, as it did with the Ryan Nugent-Hopkins contract extension earlier this summer.
Hyman scored 33 points (15 g, 18 a) in 43 games in 2021, finishing with a +19 rating. His underlying numbers for Toronto this past season were also outstanding. With Hyman on the ice at five-on-five, the Maple Leafs had a 52.26% Corsi For, 53.57% Fenwick For, 66.67% of the goals, 59.95% of the expected goals (xGF%), and 59.94% of the scoring chances.
Now, of course, the Maple Leafs have some outstanding talent up front that could skew Hyman’s numbers. Without Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, Hyman was still impressive at five-on-five. He had a Corsi For of 54.61% without the two star players, 65% of the goals, 61.60% of the expected goals, and 62.15% of the scoring chances.
Regardless of who he played with, the puck was going in the right direction with Hyman on the ice. He also put up the points to match, and is undoubtedly a top-six forward in the NHL. At 29, he’s still likely got a few good seasons left.
While the contract appears likely to be an overpay, the fact that Hyman is a proven NHL top-six forward cannot be ignored. The fact of the matter is, the Oilers are better with Hyman in the fold. He should prove to be a solid fit alongside Connor McDavid, and gives the Oilers two strong lines to run with for the 2021-22 season.
A line of Hyman, McDavid and right winger Jesse Puljujarvi should allow coach Dave Tippett to run the ‘DRY’ line on a permanent basis in 2021-22. That would have Leon Draisaitl centering Nugent-Hopkins and pending RFA Kailer Yamamoto. Yamamoto is likely to sign a bridge deal in the coming weeks with an AAV around $2,000,000.
This news shouldn’t come as a shock, as the Oilers have been connected to Hyman all month long.
TSN’s Darren Dreger connected the sides on July 7th when, unprompted, he brought up Holland pushing for Hyman’s signing rights. Kevin McGann of the ‘Toronto Star‘ named the Oilers, along with the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks, as frontrunners for Hyman’s services on July 15th.
If Holland is able to get Hyman signed, it should take a little of the sting away from Larsson’s departure on Wednesday. Hyman will instantly upgrade the Oilers forward group, giving the group a little more skill and physicality.
There is still plenty to do for the veteran manager, but signing Hyman will make the team better right now and will take care of a big piece of business this off-season.