Toronto Maple Leafs remain justified for letting Zach Hyman leave

Zach Hyman #11 of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Zach Hyman #11 of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

It was not an easy decision to let Zach Hyman leave in free agency but this season shows the Toronto Maple Leafs were justified in doing so.

When the Edmonton Oilers signed Zach Hyman to a massive seven-year contract with a $5.5 million cap hit, there were many disappointed Toronto Maple Leafs fans.

It was made known what the Leafs were losing a top penalty killer, someone who brought grit to a top-six that had no shortage of skill. Also, Hyman was able to capitalize on a limited free-agent class that didn’t have a lot of players of his calibre.

Fast forward to the first meeting between the Leafs and Oilers and unfortunately, Hyman was unable to play because of an injury. What his absence showed is that Toronto made the necessary decision while Edmonton will learn to regret theirs.

Contending teams need to find ways to maximize their depth in order to support their top players. The Tampa Bay Lightning showed that in both of their Stanley Cup runs and it seems like the Leafs made that a priority this past off-season.

By letting Hyman, as well as Frederik Andersen, leave, the salary the Leafs would have had to pay them went towards multiple players. This is not to say that Hyman couldn’t be a worthy player on the Leafs considering he has taking advantage of being on Connor McDavid’s wing and being the net-front player on one of the league’s top power plays.

However, Tuesday’s 5-1 win for the Leafs showed once again why they continue to have the clear advantage over the Oilers. As some teams have figured out, if you can limit the impact McDavid and Leon Draisaitl can have, Edmonton doesn’t have the necessary depth to pick up the slack.

At the start of the season, there were many questions about the Leafs’ depth and the team’s ability to have players outside of the “Core 4” score. We have seen the emergence of Michael Bunting, who at one point was producing at a better rate than Hyman at 5-on-5, Ondrej Kase playing in a top-line role with Mitch Marner out, and David Kampf thriving as the team’s third-line centre.

It was clear that the Leafs learned their lesson in their loss to the Montreal Canadiens. If their depth can continue to produce, they will be justified in their decision to let Hyman depart especially given the sizeable commitment the Oilers had to make to sign him.

Decision to reduce arena capacity at Toronto Maple Leafs games was only a matter of time

Seeing the NHL get hit hard by COVID-19 and the number of positive cases in Ontario, you had a feeling the government was going to impose some sort of limitation on large gatherings.

The provincial government announced that any indoor venue with capacity for 1,000 or more people will be allowed 50 per cent capacity. The justification came from premier Doug Ford was to try and reduce spread from high-risk indoor settings especially where it is tough to enforce rules.

"“Let’s be very clear, you’ve got to target the largest venues,”Ford said at a press conference.“Sports games, large concerts — people aren’t masking as much as (organizers) implore them to mask,” Ford added. “They all aren’t masking. You’re sitting side-by-side for hours. Compared to a restaurant, that’s comparing apples and bananas as far as I’m concerned, not even apples and oranges.”"

Of course, this is not an ideal situation given that the team now has to figure out the logistics of ticket refunds and enforce stricter masking where fans risk being ejected if they do not follow.

The NHL is doing what it can to avoid more outbreaks by enhancing their COVID-19 protocols with new measures including restrictions on indoor dining while on the road, masking and distancing while in club facilities and daily testing — except on days off, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

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Do you think the Leafs still made the right decision to let Hyman go in the off-season? Can their depth continue to produce like it has? Let us know in the comments below.