Pittsburgh Penguins: Should Pens Target Zach Hyman in the Offseason?


Zach Hyman has forged quite a career for himself in the NCAA.

In his fourth season for the University of Michigan, Hyman has tallied 22 goals and 54 points in only 37 games.

The breakout season earned him a nomination for the Hobey Baker Award, given to college hockey’s best player, as well as a place on the All-Big Ten First Team.

Why is this important?

Because the young forward, who was drafted 123rd overall by the Florida Panthers in 2010, could be set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Hyman is unlikely to reach an agreement on a contract with Florida, allowing him to become a UFA and sign with any team he chooses – similar to the cases of notable NCAA UFA’s Kevin Hayes and Justin Schultz.

With the possibility of Hyman being available, should the Pittsburgh Penguins roll the dice on the young forward?

Let’s take a look.

Hyman already has the size of a legitimate NHL forward, currently standing 6’1″ and weighing in at 195 lbs. At only 22 years old, with his pro career yet to begin, he’s sure to add some more muscle to his frame as well.

The forward has seen his offensive game hit a new level this season, and he has the pedigree from his youth as well. In his final year of juniors, Hyman led his team in scoring, posting 42 goals and 102 points in 43 games for the Hamilton Red Wings of the Ontario Junior Hockey League.

With the Pens’ core (namely Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin) nearing 30 years old, the team is in need of some promising youth to lead the club’s next wave of success.

Pittsburgh boasts a plethora of strong defensive prospects, as well as a couple forward prospects in Kasperi Kapanen and Oskar Sundqvist, but adding a player of Hyman’s calibre would further solidify the organization’s future, giving them a trio of forwards that could come up in the league together.

The move could help the Pens as soon as next season, however.

As Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review pointed out recently, the Pens lack the same energy they did back when Crosby and Malkin first came into the league.

Looking at other top teams in the league, the key difference between them and Pittsburgh is their infusion of solid young prospects to balance out the veterans.

While the Pens do have younger players like Beau Bennett playing small roles, they remain one of the oldest teams in the NHL – avoiding being publicly labeled as such only because they are led by Crosby and Malkin, who dominated the league for so long in their youth.

Adding Hyman wouldn’t come cheap, however. Kevin Hayes, who eventually signed with the New York Rangers, netted a two-year contract with a cap hit of around $3.7 million when bonuses were factored in (per NHLNumbers.com). Justin Schultz earned a similar cap hit from the Edmonton Oilers.

With a solid stat line and a Hobey Baker nomination attached to his name, Hyman will surely get offers from numerous teams should he become a UFA, and will command a similarly decent-sized salary in his first season.

That being said, it’s clear the Pens aren’t getting any high draft packs any time soon, as they’re set to finish fairly high in the regular season standings for the foreseeable future with Crosby and Malkin at the helm.

Thus, Pittsburgh’s best option in terms of adding elite young talent will be moves like this one.

They’ve certainly seen the potential for success as Hayes, who’s similar in size to Hyman and posted a similar stat line in his final year of college hockey, has had a solid campaign in New York. The young forward has posted 14 goals and 38 points in 71 games for the Rangers, anchoring the team’s third line and helping them to a division-leading 101 points.

After trying to sign Hayes but coming up short, the Pens seemingly could have another shot with Hyman.

The team will have to wait until Florida’s rights to Hyman expire on August 16th, however, but assuming Hyman and the Panthers fail to agree on a contract, the Penguins will be able to make their pitch to the promising young forward.

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