The Philadelphia Flyers have acquired the rights to pending unrestricted free agent Kevin Hayes from the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for a fifth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
Hayes is set to become a free agent on July 1 and the Jets are recouping value for a player they likely weren’t going to be able to re-sign in the offseason. A fifth-round pick may not seem like the most value, but it’s still something for the Jets who were likely to lose Hayes for free in a few weeks anyway.
The Flyers, on the other hand, are getting one of the best centers in the entire NHL for the value of a fifth-round pick. The catch is that he will be a free agent in less than a month. Still, the trade makes sense as the team will get a chance to negotiate with Hayes before any other team now that he’s a member of their roster.
This isn’t the first time a trade like this has taken place in the NHL and it certainly won’t be the last. In a league where stars don’t often hit free agency, Hayes getting to the open market would make for quite the bidding war. This is an opportunity for the Flyers to speak to Hayes now, ideally avoiding that bidding war altogether.
Flyers Looking to Compete
It’s been a season of transition for the Flyers who moved on from their general manager Ron Hextall before hiring Chuck Fletcher as well as the firing of head coach Dave Hakstoll before replacing him with Hayes’ old coach from New York, Alain Vigneault.
As it stands, the Flyers have multiple players in need of new contracts this season, including a slew of restricted free agents in Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Justin Bailey, Travis Konecny, Scott Laughton and Ryan Hartman at the NHL level.
The Flyers finished the season with Laughton centering a line of James van Riemsdyk and Jakub Voracek on the team’s second line. Ahead of them were Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny. With Hayes, the Flyers would have the potential to see a major boost to their center depth behind Couturier which could help the team compete now as ownership seems keen on doing.
The Flyers want to compete now and with little risk involved in this trade, it’s simply good value for the team to look at such an aggressive option ahead of free agency.
Hayes Is a Top Center in the NHL
The 27-year-old Hayes scored 19 goals and 54 points in 71 games this past season split between the New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets. It was a new career-high mark in both assists (35) and points for the Massachusetts-native and the second-highest goal total he’s scored in his career after scoring 25 goals a season ago.
In 40 postseason games, Hayes has also scored four goals and 13 points, including two goals and three points in six games with the Jets this season.
At 6 foot 5 and 216 pounds, Hayes also has very impressive size for a player who is so dynamic with the puck on his stick.
This isn’t the first time that Hayes is looking at a deadline right in the eye as he also had to decide between signing his entry-level contract with the Chicago Blackhawks or hitting the open market back in 2014 following four seasons at Boston College.
Hayes would ultimately choose to sign with the Rangers despite interest from multiple teams around the league and he’d develop into a very good player at the NHL level during his time in the Big Apple.
Brandon Share-Cohen has covered the NHL and various professional sports for seven years. Working with The Hockey Writers, Brandon works extensively on covering the Boston Bruins in addition to his role as the News Team Lead.