Pending UFA Center Kevin Hayes Is "Intrigued" By Blue Jackets, Per Report

By Dan Dukart on June 13, 2019 at 8:48 am
Kevin Hayes and Ryan Murray battle for the puck at Nationwide Arena
Jason Mowry-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL season just ended last night, but silly season is in mid-swing.

This time, the name in question is former New York Rangers' center Kevin Hayes, who was dealt to the Winnipeg Jets at the trade deadline before his rights were sent by the Jets to the Philadelphia Flyers on June 3 for a 2019 5th round pick. 

Courtesy of TSN's Frank Seravalli, the Flyers are far from a guarantee, and the Blue Jackets are mentioned by name as a team that could end up with the 6'5 forward.

A bit to unpack here. First off, Hayes' rights are owned by the Flyers, and they are the only NHL team that can speak with him at this juncture. So to say that he's intrigued by the Blue Jackets (or Coyotes) could be nothing more than conjecture. The fact that Seravalli tweeted that is interesting because of the dominoes that would/could fall in that scenario.

As we've mentioned in recent days, losing Matt Duchene to free agency would be devastating, simply because he's a top-flight center, and quality centers (much less top-end ones) are rarely available. If Duchene does leave, it'll (re)open a large gap in the lineup. And while Hayes, 27, isn't on the same tier as Duchene, he would be a major upgrade over Alexander Wennberg, or whoever the club's number two center would be behind Pierre-Luc Dubois. 

Hayes will be seeking a big pay-day on July 1. After earning $2.6M AAV in his first contract post-entry-level in 2016-17, the then RFA signed a one-year, $5.175M contract last summer. Should the Blue Jackets lose Duchene, Artemi Panarin, and Sergei Bobrovsky in free agency, they will have around $30M in cap space heading into the summer (Note: just because they have the cap space doesn't mean the prudent play is to spend big on UFAs).

Signing Hayes to a reasonable contract would be a solid play for a team that needs all the center help they can get. Hockey-graphs projects Hayes' contract to be 6 years, $35.3M ($5.88M AAV), which is a lot of money for a player who's broken the 20-goal plateau just once in five seasons, but that's the going rate for a solid, 2nd line center in today's cap world. 

Does this rumor have legs? Time will tell, but it's something we'll keep an eye on going forward. 

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