This will be the final post in this year’s RFA series. Here is the list of what we’ve covered so far:
- Nikita Zaitsev
- Garret Sparks and Antoine Bibeau
- Seth Griffith and Sergey Kalinin
- Connor Brown
- Brendan Leipsic
- Justin Holl
This one, I think, will be the most interesting of this year’s series, and it’ll be about Zach Hyman.
Hyman was acquired by the Leafs in 2014 from the Florida Panthers, where Hyman indicated that he would not sign. As such, the Panthers put him on the discount rack, and the Leafs were able to snag him. At the time, no one expected much of Hyman, coming out of college hockey with nothing but a decent scoring ability and a penchant for hard work.
Zach Hyman has shown up to the Leafs this year hitting every single one of Mike Babcock’s checkmarks. He works hard, he plays physical, he kills penalties, and he can score (sort of). At 24 years old, he can no longer be considered “up-and-coming”. What we have now is very close to the best of what we’ll ever have from Hyman. But what we have is a quality depth winger.
Hyman’s season has been spent entirely on a line with the Leafs’ best player: Auston Matthews. Unquestionably that’s going to boost Hyman’s performance a bit, but the pairing certainly has not floundered.
One of the most important things we need to do here is separate what Zach Hyman is from what Auston Matthews makes him appear to be. The best way to do this is with With You Without You stats.
The numbers above are from 2015-2017, 5v5, Score-Zone-and-Venue adjusted, and were retrieved from Corsica.hockey.
Some very interesting things stand out, but it’s very important to remember that the Matthews apart sample is very limited and came in special circumstances almost entirely (line changes, post-PK shifts, late game pushes to tie) that may have stronger effects that they normally would, because of the limited TOI.
But to tentatively draw conclusions here, it seems that, focusing especially on the Rel.xGF% and Rel.CF% numbers, that Hyman is actually having a notably positive effect on Matthews.
What about Hyman himself as a player? For this we will go back to DTMAboutHeart’s GAR model (which does factor in Quality of Teammates so be careful not to double count here).
You can see that model looks pretty favourably on Hyman. He’s not especially good at any of the components, but he’s just a solid player. I think that lines up with the general impression of Hyman.
In case you’re curious, this 4.5 overall GAR is exactly what William Nylander, Morgan Rielly, and Brian Boyle had in 2016-17. I find that interesting. You can find the full data here.
Also known as the cheese, or the lettuce. Sticking to food, for me it’s the meat, as in the meat of this post. The most important part.
What the heck is Zach Hyman’s next contract going to look like?
The question that needs to be answered first is: what’s your strategy? Do you want to lock up Hyman for a long time, like Zaitsev? Or is he a support piece that you want to keep your options open with? I definitely lean towards the latter.
Giving term to depth forwards has been one of my biggest contract-related gripes. It’s why I hated the Martin deal, the Clarkson deal, the Bolland deal, the Abdelkader deal, etc. With Hyman, though, it’s not such a big concern. Even if you went for 6 years, that deal ends when he’s 30 and probably still a capable NHL forward.
Either way, I fear that’s where the Leafs are going to want to head.
Here are my guesses:
Optimistic: $3M x 2 years
Realistic: $2.5M x 4 years
Pessimistic: $2.75M x 6 years
Goodness, it would be nice to see another year or two of Hyman before committing long term. He’d still be RFA at the end of even a 2 year contract, and thus would still be under team control where they can then make an educated bet on how long Hyman will be good, and how good he’ll be.
But when I look at the Leafs, I think they’re very set on buying lots of years for all of the players they feel are part of the core. And the way Babcock talks about Hyman, it’d be hard to imagine he’s not part of what the team feels is their core.
So, I definitely see the Leafs buying some term. 6 years is pretty aggressive (Calle Jarnkrok and Abdelkader were my comparable there) but I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibilities.
I think I could support the realistic option here. $2.5M is great for a player who can legitimately play up and down the lineup. And while 4 years is more than I’d like, it’s not damning. The team is probably confident they will get similar play out of Hyman for another ~4 years, and I think I share that notion.
This concludes this years’ RFA series. I hope you liked it, and I hope my guesses were reasonable. In a month or so I will follow up and check in on how my guesses turned out (we already know I nailed it with Zaitsev… yay…).
Thanks for reading!