Zach Hyman's likely departure has Leafs fans in shambles

Leafs fans are lamenting the likely loss of pending free-agent winger Zach Hyman as he heads to the NHL's open market this summer. (Getty)

As NHL free agency draws near, It looks increasingly likely that Zach Hyman has played his last game in a Maple Leafs tarp, and the notion that Toronto might lose a 29-year-old, 40-point winger with injury issues has predictably swallowed up the NHL's news cycle over the past couple days.

TSN insider Darren Dreger dropped news on Thursday that Leafs fans were reluctantly waiting to hear, reporting the Maple Leafs "have granted Zach Hyman’s agent, Todd Reynolds, permission to speak with other NHL clubs to investigate trading his rights."

The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun set the tire fire ablaze on Wednesday morning after he tweeted an update on the wrecking-ball winger's contract status with the Leafs, causing fans to really face head-on the likely possibility of Hyman testing the open market and chasing his big payday with another organization.

Hyman rightfully wants to get paid after posting three fairly productive seasons while carving out a prominent top-six role with the Leafs since inking a somewhat team-friendly, four-year deal worth $2.25M per season in 2017, and Toronto simply can't afford to give him the bag he deserves without tearing down a significant chunk of its roster.

For as stellar a player as he is — one you absolutely hate to lose because of a somewhat unexpected cap crunch — there's legitimate arguments to be made against using $5 to 6-million of cap space over the next 6-7 years on a 29-year-old winger who plays a wreckless style, is already battling some chronic injury issues over the past few campaigns, and who has only put up 20 goals and 40 points twice over five-and-a-half NHL seasons while under-producing like the rest of the squad has in each the past few postseasons.

The intricacies and plethora of factors involved is making this a polarizing situation for fans of the Leafs and beyond, and you absolutely knew the prospect of losing the play-driving winger this summer would provide us with the predictably absurd takes we crave in times like these.

But even the (somewhat) more rational ends of Leafs Twitter lamented Hyman's likely departure in many different ways since the reports started to surface, with many grappling feelings of disappointment, sadness, relief and confusion over the whole thing.

This week's Zach Hyman Discourse has had it all.

Sure, there's many a reason why the Leafs should be doing everything they can to keep Hyman and players of his ilk in Toronto, but we can't overlook the fact that this dude is absolutely a candidate for a big overpay.

It's a classic case of a guy you really, really want but don't necessarily need — especially at $5 or 5.5-million per season which he is reportedly seeking — but a valuable enough piece of your core that it will certainly warrant debates and discussions like these.

Unfortunately, we won't know for a couple of seasons whether or not the Hyman signing was great, or one of the worst contracts in NHL history. It can only be one of those two things.

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