A report from Darren Dreger suggests Zach Hyman has been given permission to speak to other NHL teams, while a report from Frank Seravalli includes the Leafs as one of the clubs with serious interest in goaltender Darcy Kuemper.
Sources say the Maple Leafs have granted Zach Hyman’s agent, Todd Reynolds permission to speak with other NHL clubs to investigate trading his rights.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) July 15, 2021
The Hyman news is tough to hear for fans of this player (of which there are many in Toronto), as it’s a pretty dire statement on where things stand in contract negotiations between the two sides. According to The Star’s Kevin McGran, Hyman has received long-term offers north of $5 million AAV already, with the Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Florida Panthers, Boston Bruins, and Detroit Red Wings all in the mix. Hyman would reportedly sign as low as $5 million AAV in Toronto but would need the Leafs to max out the eight-year term — locking him up until his 37th birthday — and include a no-movement clause.
Barring a sudden turnaround, Zach Hyman appears to have played his last game as a Leaf. The history of pending-UFA rights deals suggests there could be a mid-round pick to be had if Hyman and a willing team are able to progress far enough on a contract before the UFA period. It makes a lot of sense from the Leafs’ perspective to shop his rights, particularly if they could grab a 2021 draft pick in a year where they own just three.
Kevin Papetti recently wrote a really in-depth overview of all of the Leafs external options when it comes to acquiring a winger who could help replace what has been lost not just in terms of production but also on special teams, on the forecheck with puck retrieval alongside the Leafs‘ stars, and all of the other areas Hyman has been of such value to the Leafs for the last several years.
The most NHL-ready forwards in the Leafs’ system are Nick Robertson and Joey Anderson, with an outside shot a Filip Hallander or Rodion Amirov could surprise at camp. They’re going to have to add a replacement at LW — whether it’s through one forward or a couple of forwards — via trade and/or FA.
In other news, Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli is reporting that the Leafs are one of the teams showing serious interest in goaltending trade target Darcy Kuemper of the Arizona Coyotes. Kuemper has one year remaining on a $4.5 million AAV contract.
The difficulty for the Leafs here is that among the three teams reported to have serious interest — Avalanche, Kraken, Leafs — they’re the only one that has a goalie on the roster in need of protection (Jack Campbell), putting them in a weaker negotiating position before the expansion draft. The Coyotes may also be seeking out a 2021 draft-pick package given their forfeited picks this summer, and as mentioned, the Leafs do not have many of those to give. The Kraken can take their pick between Adin Hill and Kuemper if Arizona doesn’t move either before then. With Philip Grubauer and Devan Dubnyk unsigned, the Avalanche could go ahead and acquire Kuemper today without concern knowing they have the ability to protect him in the expansion draft.
Whether or not it comes together for the Leafs with Arizona and Kuemper, it is interesting that the Leafs are showing signs of serious interest in goaltenders of this price tag — $4.5 million — and pedigree. It suggests that they are not simply looking at this as a search for a cheap-ish goaltender to supplement Campbell but are fully open to allocating the necessary cap dollars — and trade assets, potentially — to add a goalie who can really push Campbell for starts in a tandem situation. If they can do it affordably — a big if, granted — it appears wise entering a full 82-game season (now back inside a tougher division) with a starter in Campbell who has never played more than 31 games in an NHL season and played just 22 of 56 last year while battling injuries.
The 31-year-old Kuemper has a longer track record of NHL success than Campbell with 242 games played and a .917 career save percentage. The 6’5 netminder has started as many as 55 games in a season before, posting a .925 that year (2018-19).
What’s also interesting about Kuemper’s fit is when we consider the goalie environment in Toronto. Jack Campbell came from a very low rush-attempts-against team in Los Angeles to Toronto, where he thrived in 2020-21 behind a Leafs team that greatly reduced its overall rush attempts against at 5v5 through improved defensive personnel and structure — Campbell faced just 1.09 rush attempts per 60 at 5v5, which ranked sixth in the league among regular starters (min. 1000 5v5 minutes played).
In the three prior seasons before 2020-21, between LA and (mostly) Arizona, Kuemper faced the third-fewest rush attempts against per 60 among goalies with a minimum of 100 games played (only Jonathan Quick and Devan Dubnyk faced fewer). Over those three seasons, Kuemper posted a .929 save percentage at 5v5, sixth-best in the NHL over the three years (min. 100 GP).
It was this past season when Kuemper’s rush attempts against spiked to 1.57/60, tied for eighth-most in the league, and his save percentage plummeted to .911 at 5v5 after several years of very good numbers at 5v5.