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Off the Top of My Head

When a player like Zach Hyman inks the kind of big ticket he did with the Edmonton Oilers this off-season, it follows there’s going to be great expectations. That comes with a seven-year deal worth $38.5 million for a $5.5 million AAV. As it should be.

Can Hyman deliver? Well outside of what the numbers, advanced an otherwise, indicate, I don’t know. I haven’t seen enough of the 29-year-old winger from Hogtown to apply any kind of eye test, but veteran reporter Chris Johnston, now writing for the Toronto Star, certainly has. He’s been all over Hyman during the six years he spent with the Maple Leafs.

“I don’t think you can measure his contribution just in terms of goals and assists,” Johnston told Oilers Now host Bob Stauffer on Friday. “He has increased his scoring rates every season that he’s been in the NHL, so there’s no problem there, but he’s a culture driver. He’s a very hard worker. He lives his life the right way and he’s a great teammate.

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“He was incredibly popular during his time with the Maple Leafs. The only reason they got to a point where he became a UFA is the salary cap . . . there’s no reason to think he won’t succeed whether he’s with (Leon) Draisaitl or (Connor) McDavid. He knows the role. He’s played big minutes. It was a great signing for Edmonton. I think he does a lot of the things hockey teams need for success and that’s why success has followed him through his life.”

Johnston isn’t the only one who thinks Oilers’ GM Ken Holland got himself a keeper in Hyman. Former Oilers’ coach Ron Low talked to Stauffer Friday about Hyman, who introduced himself to one of his new teammates, goaltender Mike Smith, long ago.

“He (Hyman) would be in his kitchen,” Low said. “Smith would be going nuts. He’d be hacking him and whacking him. I know one thing about Smitty, if somebody is pissing him off in front of the net, then that’s the guy I want. To me, that was the best free agent signing for quite a while on this team.”

THAT INK THING

Apr 29, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom (25) makes a save with Edmonton Oilers forward Kailer Yamamoto (56) looking for a rebound during the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

There are just 11 days remaining until training camp opens and we still don’t know if Holland and agent J.P. Barry are making any significant progress on a new contract for RFA Kailer Yamamoto.

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“Obviously we’ve got work to do or he’d be signed by now,” Holland said. “Anytime a player is not signed there’s a difference of opinion. Basically, we talked a lot three or four weeks ago and kind of decided ‘let’s take a break.’

“The plan is to get him signed here at some point in time and prior to training camp because, ideally, I like to get into training camp with everybody signed. At the same time, there’s the business aspect of hockey and the deal has got to make sense for Kailer and his agent. It’s also got to make sense for the Edmonton Oilers.”

Barry, who also represents Oilers Oscar Klefbom, Cody Ceci and Brendan Perlini, is an experienced agent with a big-time client portfolio. I can’t imagine he’ll let this drag into camp, given the relatively low dollars involved and the lack of leverage he and Yamamoto have. Won’t be surprised to hear something is finalized – two years with a $1.5M to $1.75M AAV – this coming week.

TOUGH ENOUGH?

With some fans already wondering aloud if the Oilers are tough enough, the Calgary Flames upped the ante Friday, signing rugged blueliner Erik Gudbranson. He joins former Oiler Milan Lucic and pain-in-the-ass Matthew Tkachuk in the Calgary line-up.

Darnell Nurse, who needs to be on the ice and not in the penalty box serving majors, and Zack Kassian are Edmonton’s two most physical players. Stauffer asked Low if Holland has enough grit and nastiness on his roster.

“I think it’s still around,” said Low who believes Hyman and Warren Foegele will add grit up front. “I don’t think you have to fight every night, but you definitely have to show up. I don’t know if you have to fight has much as you have to have the people who are willing to fight.” 

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AND . . . 

  • A lot of eyes will be on the likes of Philip Broberg, Dmitri Samorukov, Dylan Holloway (if he’s ready to go) and 2021 first-rounder Xavier Bourgault when rookie camp opens, but the guy I’m keeping an eye on is goaltender Ilya Konovalov. At just five-foot-11, Konovalov is absolutely tiny by today’s standards in the drop-and-block era. Now 23 with four seasons with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv of the KHL under his belt, it’s about time we get a first-hand look to see if he’s a legit candidate to patrol the blue paint when Smith and Mikko Koskinen are done. Show us what you’ve got.

Previously by Robin Brownlee