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Stanley Cup Final notebook: Oilers' Zach Hyman is proving to be one of the best free agent signings

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Stanley Cup Final notebook: Oilers' Zach Hyman is proving to be one of the best free agent signings
Sport

Sport

Stanley Cup Final notebook: Oilers' Zach Hyman is proving to be one of the best free agent signings

2024-06-23 04:41 Last Updated At:05:10

Zach Hyman is proving the Edmonton Oilers right for committing to him long term.

Hyman has scored a playoff-best 16 goals on their run to the Stanley Cup Final, the latest of which helped send the series to a deciding Game 7 against the Florida Panthers on Monday night. His contributions are a big reason they have even gotten to this point, and Hyman is now making a case to be considered among the best free agent signings since the NHL salary cap era began in 2005.

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Edmonton Oilers' Zach Hyman (18) celebrates his goal against the Florida Panthers with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) during the second period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

Zach Hyman is proving the Edmonton Oilers right for committing to him long term.

Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (72) makes a save as Edmonton Oilers' Zach Hyman (18) and Panthers' Gustav Forsling (42) watch during the second period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (72) makes a save as Edmonton Oilers' Zach Hyman (18) and Panthers' Gustav Forsling (42) watch during the second period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers' goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (72) is scored on by Edmonton Oilers' Zach Hyman (18) during the second period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers' goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (72) is scored on by Edmonton Oilers' Zach Hyman (18) during the second period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (72) is scored on by Edmonton Oilers' Zach Hyman (18) as Gustav Forsling (42) watches during the second period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (72) is scored on by Edmonton Oilers' Zach Hyman (18) as Gustav Forsling (42) watches during the second period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

Edmonton Oilers' Zach Hyman (18) celebrates a goal against the Florida Panthers during the second period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Edmonton Oilers' Zach Hyman (18) celebrates a goal against the Florida Panthers during the second period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers' Aaron Ekblad (5) chases Edmonton Oilers' Zach Hyman (18) on a breakaway during the second period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers' Aaron Ekblad (5) chases Edmonton Oilers' Zach Hyman (18) on a breakaway during the second period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

The Oilers signed Hyman in the summer of 2021 to a seven-year contract worth $38.5 million, a $5.5 million annual salary cap hit that is a bargain based on his production since joining Edmonton. He set a career high in scoring his first season, followed it up with 83 points the next and 54 goals this year.

Hyman at the time was 29 and was coming off seasons with moderate production as a secondary piece of the Toronto Maple Leafs led by Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and John Tavares. But Edmonton general manager Ken Holland's son Brad worked for the Leafs, so he got a front row seat to what Hyman could do.

The Oilers did not necessarily expect him to be a 50-goal scorer, maybe 25, but they knew they needed a player like Hyman to complement Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and the rest of the core.

“We liked the way Zach played: He went to the blue paint, he forechecked, he cycled,” Holland said. “Cycle, go to the blue paint, hang on to pucks, bring character and leadership.”

Hyman with his Game 6 goal Friday night showed not only that character but hustle and speed, winning the race to the loose puck and scoring to set off a wild celebration in the crowd.

“I was just in the moment," Hyman said. "It didn’t feel so long in the moment. Trying to race to the puck, and I didn’t have much time when I got it. I was at the hash marks. I obviously settled it and made a move and beat him.”

The all-time record for goals in a single post-season is held by Reggie Leach, who scored 19 goals in 16 games during the 1976 playoffs with the Philadelphia Flyers. He was the playoff MVP that season despite losing in the final.

Only eight players — Mike Bossy did it three times — have scored more goals in a single postseason than Hyman, who has one more opportunity to add to that total and arguably cement himself as the best player to sign as an unrestricted free agent over the past two decades.

Chicago's Marian Hossa and Boston's Zdeno Chara have two of the best cases right now. Hossa and the Blackhawks won the Cup three times from 2010-15, and Chara hoisted it as captain of the Bruins in '11.

No matter how this final ends, Hyman has made the Oilers' investment well worth it.

“What he’s doing this year, no one could have predicted it,” teammate Mattias Janmark said. "He just never stops. He’s a unit out there. He does so much for us.”

Florida coach Paul Maurice has been fiddling with his fourth-line wingers throughout the playoffs, mixing and matching Ryan Lomberg, Nick Cousins, Steven Lorentz and Kyle Okposo. He has those options after GM Bill Zito acquired Okposo and 2019 Cup champion Vladimir Tarasenko at the trade deadline.

All four have played in the final with center Kevin Stenlund the one constant. Maurice inserted Cousins in Game 6 for some fresh legs and a different look.

“I think there’s a chemistry of Lomberg, Stenlund and Cousins because they’ve played together so much this year,” Maurice said.

After losing three in a row, Maurice's adjustments from the fourth line and beyond could play a crucial role in the chances of the Panthers avoiding a historic collapse.

The Panthers scored the first goal in Game 1 when Sergei Bobrovsky got a shutout and again in Game 3 when they went up 3-0 in the series. They are 9-2 in the playoffs when scoring first.

The Oilers scored first in their Game 2 loss, then in Games 4, 5 and 6 to even the series. Obviously, every team wants to get the first goal of any game, but Edmonton coach Kris Knoblauch said playing with the lead “allows you to play your game.”

“Any time you score first, it calms a lot of jitters,” Knoblauch said Sunday on a video call with reporters. “It also forces the opposition to open things up a little bit more and maybe not play with as much defensive structure as they would like just because they’re trying to get back in the game and forcing to score that next goal, so, it kind of alleviates a little bit of pressure on your team.”

AP NHL playoffs: https://apnews.com/hub/stanley-cup and https://www.apnews.com/hub/NHL

Edmonton Oilers' Zach Hyman (18) celebrates his goal against the Florida Panthers with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) during the second period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

Edmonton Oilers' Zach Hyman (18) celebrates his goal against the Florida Panthers with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) during the second period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (72) makes a save as Edmonton Oilers' Zach Hyman (18) and Panthers' Gustav Forsling (42) watch during the second period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (72) makes a save as Edmonton Oilers' Zach Hyman (18) and Panthers' Gustav Forsling (42) watch during the second period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers' goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (72) is scored on by Edmonton Oilers' Zach Hyman (18) during the second period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers' goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (72) is scored on by Edmonton Oilers' Zach Hyman (18) during the second period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (72) is scored on by Edmonton Oilers' Zach Hyman (18) as Gustav Forsling (42) watches during the second period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (72) is scored on by Edmonton Oilers' Zach Hyman (18) as Gustav Forsling (42) watches during the second period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

Edmonton Oilers' Zach Hyman (18) celebrates a goal against the Florida Panthers during the second period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Edmonton Oilers' Zach Hyman (18) celebrates a goal against the Florida Panthers during the second period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers' Aaron Ekblad (5) chases Edmonton Oilers' Zach Hyman (18) on a breakaway during the second period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Florida Panthers' Aaron Ekblad (5) chases Edmonton Oilers' Zach Hyman (18) on a breakaway during the second period of Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Friday, June 21, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

LONDON (AP) — Human remains have been found in the search for a British teen who went missing almost a month ago on the island of Tenerife, Spanish police said Monday.

It is likely to be the body of Jay Slater, though formal identification has not been made, police said.

“The Mountain Rescue and Intervention Group of the Civil Guard has located the lifeless body of a young man in the Masca area after 29 days of constant search,” according to the statement. “All indications indicate that it could be the young British man who has been missing since last June 17."

LBT Global, a charity that supported Slater’s family, said the body was found with Slater’s clothing and possessions near the last location of his mobile phone.

Slater, 19, was last seen as he set out to walk from Masca, a village in the northwest of the Canary Island, to where he had been staying in Los Cristianos in the south. It was a trip that would have taken about 11 hours on foot over rugged terrain.

Slater frantically called his friend, Lucy Law, that morning and said he was “lost in the mountains, he wasn’t aware of his surroundings, he desperately needed a drink and his phone was on 1%,” she said.

Police said the body was found in a very remote area and that an autopsy will be performed “to confirm that the death was accidental.”

Slater, an apprentice bricklayer from Oswaldtwistle in northwest England, had attended a music festival the day before his disappearance.

Undated family handout issued by LBT Global on Monday July 15, 2024, of Jay Slater. Human remains have been found in the search for a British teen who went missing almost a month ago on the island of Tenerife, Spanish police said Monday. (Family Handout/LBT Global via AP)

Undated family handout issued by LBT Global on Monday July 15, 2024, of Jay Slater. Human remains have been found in the search for a British teen who went missing almost a month ago on the island of Tenerife, Spanish police said Monday. (Family Handout/LBT Global via AP)

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