Rangers’ moves may focus on center depth

June 9, 2016, by
kevin hayes


We keep talking about how the Rangers are poised to make an array of moves to shake up both the roster and the organisation as a whole, but aside from signing Pavel Buchnevich (hurrah!) the team have been silent thus far. That may be because they aren’t done assessing the current situation yet; time will tell.

The Rangers are obviously going to need to reshape their defense – if they can – but perhaps the biggest decision they may have to make may be which center they have to deal. The Rangers don’t just need to shift cap space but they need to acquire assets and the Rangers best chance of a quality return – without negatively impacting any one specific position – may be moving one of their centers. It’s the position where the Rangers are deepest.

We’ve discussed moving Kevin Hayes before and more recently Derick Brassard and we’ve all heard of the rumours of Derek Stepan to the Wild. When facing the facts though, the guy to be moved should be Kevin Hayes.

Hayes isn’t as valuable to the Rangers as Stepan or Brassard, and facing up to the reality that Steven Stamkos is too pricy for the Rangers, then trading Hayes hurts the Rangers center depth the least when you factor in they cannot (realistically) replace either of the top six centers. Can the Rangers find a new third line center? It’s easier to do than find a top six center for sure.

Hayes may not bring the cap relief that moving Stepan or Brassard would bring but a good, big and young center with some cost control to the acquiring team would surely bring a solid return; either in prospects or draft picks – maybe even a roster player in return . Factor in that Hayes hasn’t quite established himself as a top six player or even in a definitive position and you have the makings of a moveable asset.

Losing Hayes would hurt and moving on from him after two years may influence other college free agents (Jimmy Vesey?) when they decide where to start their pro careers. However, if the Rangers want to limit the impact any moves have on the current roster and its subsequent ability to contend, then Hayes is arguably the most attractive, asset producing and (keyword) expendable player the Rangers have available to them.

The Rangers biggest decision this summer might not center around Dan Girardi or Marc Staal but it may be around which center needs to be moved to help bring positive change. That center should be Kevin Hayes.


  1. SalMerc says:

    To further complicate the situation is the injury to Oskar Lindberg. He could have slid into the 3rd line center role, but with his unavailability to open the season, a move of Hayes, while still the right move, causes a ripple effect at center.

    Hayes’ inability to back-check and “lazy” style doesn’t seem to play well in the system, and he indeed should be shopped. His minimal impact on the Cap seems meaningless, but if he can be replaced with a 2-way player with similar numbers at even a $150K savings, that is money we can use elsewhere on the roster.

    • Hatrick Swayze says:

      I don’t think something as short term as Lindberg’s injury should affect a long term decision like trading Kevin Hayes. You can sign anyone to a PTO and 1 year contract to fill in for Lindberg, and then demote said player to the pack with zero cap implications if the signing is smart.

      Think Jarett Stoll. He could have filled in for a quarter season then been demoted or traded. There are dozens of guys the Rangers can have fill in while Lindberg recovers. Don’t base a Brassard, Stepan or Hayes trade on something so short term.

  2. Alec says:

    Hayes is a center if you play a system where the C doesn’t have to backcheck like a LW lock.

    Don’t get much value trading him as a UFA before July 1, need to re-sign long term to lock in cost certainty.

    After that, you don’t think of dealing until after the Vesey signing occurs.

    • paulronty says:

      The idea that Hayes is a centre is a fiction, he’s not. JT Miller would be much better at centre than Hayes in my view. Centre ice is definitely the place where changes are going to happen, but I don’t think it will be Hayes, more likely Stepan because of the cap hit. Maybe Nash and Klein get moved too depending on what is coming back. What Hayes needs is a coach who can light a fire under him and not undermine his confidence.

      • Fotiu is God says:

        I give you Canadian Paul, in the role of Odysseus, titling towards Ithaca…

        … appalled-bemused-anguished by the Lotus-eaters wont to place Young Hayes at center ice.

        Only the likes of a literary mystic, an Aldous Huxley, a Bertrund Russell or Psilocybin SalMerc would indulge in such wildly dreamlike, phantasmagoric folly.

        • SalMerc says:

          Hayes is on that Magical Mystery tour and Slats is driving that paisley, fluorescent colored bus, while chomping that cigar, laced with LSD. You there with the long hair and burly body “pointing at Hayes”, you look like center and a center thee shall be!

          They drank from a purple goblet and sang merry songs, but a center-iceman, he is not.

          Slats! – Get thee to a nunnery!

          • paulronty says:

            They are all on the bus with Ken Kesey & The Merry Pranksters on the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Trip. Slats is manning the gunnery at the back of the bus, protecting his Lord Stanley’s Cup(replica variety).

            • Ranger 11 says:

              There was Cowboy Neil at the back of the wheel on a bus to never ever land. Come in, come in, come in around, Come in around

        • paulronty says:

          I lash myself to the mast should the salacious Circe come for me, as her call cannot be countermanded, whereas Hayes at Centre doth make me want to cry for a Brave New Ranger World.

      • sherrane says:

        “The idea that Hayes is a centre is a fiction, he’s not. JT Miller would be much better at centre than Hayes in my view.”

        I was going to post something similar. In fact, I think that IF (biggest little word in English) the value is there, the Rangers could trade Hayes and Stepan / Brassard because JT Miller could fit at 2C with Lindberg (when healthy) filling the 3C spot. I lean toward keeping Stepan over Brassard, but the one traded should be based on what the Rangers get in return.

      • Walt says:

        Worst case, we move Hayes in a trade, then Miller moves to the 3rd line center, and Tambolini plays fourth line center, until Oscar returns!!!!!

  3. amy says:

    the cap isn’t going up so you have to be creative but don’t give away talent and not replace it

    • Chris A says:

      The cap went up about $4M

      • Rhodork says:

        $4M from the base number so net increase = $1M

        • Chris A says:

          No, the NHLPA exercised their one time 5% escalator option which increased the cap 5% from last year’s limit, which is about $4M

          • paulronty says:

            I believe that 5% escalator puts the Cap at about 72 mil, which is 1 mil more than the current cap. If they don’t approve the escalator the cap will be 69 mil.

  4. Hatrick Swayze says:

    I don’t see the benefit of trading Hayes. He is young, cost controlled and still blooming. As such, like you point out, it wouldn’t provide much cap relief, so why move him? We all acknowledge that we have taken a step back in regards to cup contention. If we were still right there knocking, then I may be more open to the option of trading Hayes over Brassard, but as it stands now we’re probably best served by gearing up for a 2 year reshaping as opposed to continuing the ‘all in’ mentality which the org has recently been pursuing.

    As such, Brassard just makes more sense to trade given age, cap hit and current state of the organization. If we’re going for the cup in 2017, Brassard isn’t the guy to move. Realistically, though, another year to reshape things might give us a better shot at the ultimate prize. If that is the consensus among the Ranger’s brass, then selling high on Brass this summer would make a lot more sense over moving a younger and cheaper player especially considering he MAY have a higher ceiling if given a couple more years of development.

    In short, I would favor moving guys around Brassard’s age (29+) over guys around Hayes’ age (24). Hayes, Miller, Kreider, Buch, McD, Skjei are the guys to build around, not trade away.

    • SalMerc says:

      I agree on the age bracket, but we need to also include a talent bracket. I for one do not think Hayes will ever achieve the talent level of a Brassard/Stepan so he needs to be paid like a #3 center. Kreider and Miller put up numbers like bottom 6 forwards. I know we all want Kreider to be a top 6, but the numbers are not there. Youth is great, but we need performance. To me, this is a huge year for JT, Kreider and Hayes. They either put up some real numbers or are perennial 3rd line players (in my book).

      • Hatrick Swayze says:

        Absolutely agree on age not the end all be all. Talent, obviously is the more important factor. We diverge on our sentiment on how Hayes will develop. I am not near the point of writing him off and expect him to turn into a solid NHLer.

        Kreider has had time to figure it out and while he always seems to show up for the post season, I’d like to consistently see him pushing a 30/30 season stat line. Will be a big season for all 3…. contract negotiations will be very interesting.

    • 43 says:

      This may be a “tired narrative,” but Hayes looked like he was wilting last season, not blooming.

      • Hatrick Swayze says:

        I’d chalk that up to growing pains. Give him another 2 years (bridge deal) and let’s see how he trends.

      • Fotiu is God says:

        True dat.

        Besides Hayes’s no check/back-check, if not often distracted game is the Bowery Boys mopey-mug on him.

        Had Sully remained behind our bench, I think he would’ve buried one of his wingtips in Hayes’s backside.

    • Ray says:

      Hayes is an arbitration eligible RFA – not a cost controlled player. It is precisely these guys who present the Rangers with their current cap “emergency” (Hayes, Kreider, Miller).

      There is also the determination issue. You only win the Cup with players who really want to win the Cup. The Rangers have the wrong coach in this respect (survivable with the right players) and too few of the right players. Hayes seems to be part of the problem, not part of the solution.

      If the Rangers can sign Hayes to a favorable deal and believe his heart is in the right place, I agree with you – but those seem like big IFs.

      • Hatrick Swayze says:

        Disagree on the cost controlled aspect. He is cost controlled in that he hasn’t done enough for an arbitrator to award him a large salary if it gets that far in the negotiation process. Kreider, on the other hand, will probably be in the 4.5-5.5 mil range based on body of work and comparables (Abdelkader). Hayes should fall closer to a 2.5 mil bridge deal. That, to me, is cost controlled. Of course, he isn’t going to stay at the same ELC dollars. He and JT Miller are still a contract away from big money so I do not view them as detriments to the cap, unlike Kreider.

        As far as the want to win thing…. in my opinion we’re too far removed from the locker room to have an informed opinion on that. I’m not going to knock him on a hunch I may have on what’s going on between his ears. While I’m not writing off the importance of that factor, I won’t base my player assessment on conjecture. I’ll defer to his advanced stats- aka how has he influenced play over the past 2 seasons- to determine if he warrants a spot on the roster.

        • Ray says:

          It doesn’t matter how far removed we are. We aren’t making the decisions. My point is that this is something important. I may be totally off base in my suggestion that Hayes is not driven to be a “winner”. And if I am wrong I expect that the more informed Gorton will know that I am wrong and act accordingly. However, if I am right, this is a matter that deserves consideration.

          Driven is important. And the Rangers currently come up short. If there are no surprises this week, the only team that will have forced the Stanley Cup champions to seven games will have been the weakest but most driven of the four teams they faced.

          We should not take the point of view that stuff we don’t know should not be considered.

    • howiehockey says:

      Sound thinking, however I wouldn’t trade Brassard.

      • Hatrick Swayze says:

        No, me either. It was more of an- assuming you have to trade one. Which I don’t think has to be the case.

        I would be very pleased with a line-up of Stepan, Brassard, Hayes, Lindberg down the middle. Would have liked Lindberg to be a 4th line staple last year so he’d be a bit more groomed for the tolling d zone starts, but what can ya do.

        To me, we would have been much better served if he was given those minutes in Glass’s stead. Given how things played out, I’m good with a baptism by fire of sorts once he returns from injury.

        • Fotiu is God says:

          You had me, Hatrick, until you penciled in young Hayes at C.

          No step away from that lineup. Now place some critical perspective between you and it.

          Notwithstanding Lindberg those four Cs project no real size.

          Granted, Brass plays an admirably tenacious game; but that giant sucking sound you hear isn’t Sal pulling a draw on his bong, its our critical need for a Ryan Kesler/Backes-like 1C/two-way beast. Someone with serious jam.

          Hat, given our reduced expectations-low ceiling here heading into 1 July, I’d be content with another Jarret Stoll or Manny Malhotra face-off specialist as a stop gap measure…

          Inasmuch, I’d still move one of either Stepan or Hayes to improve our depth.

          • Hatrick Swayze says:

            Give me either of those guys 5-8 years ago. Right now their best years are behind them. I’d prefer Kevin Hayes and roll the dice on his development as opposed to welcoming anyone else’s certain years of steady decline.

            • Fotiu is God says:

              Hat, c’mon: I cited Kesler and Backes only for comparison’s sake.

              You, I, even the meth heads who troll my alley know both of the aforementioned have begun to fade into the great Sunset.

              But it’s not like Calgary’s gonna’ dump Sam Bennett on us, or Peter Chiarelli’s gonna’ gift wrap Leon Draisaitl.

              I mean, not unless we send Our Resident Hard Man, Bobby B., on a little knock ‘n talk tour of Alberta.

              “Hey, how you doin’?… I’m Bobby B. Now it’d be in your best interests…”

              • Swarty says:

                If Bobby B is not up to it – I may be able to help here Fotiu.

                Given my time spent underground I have accumulated several Canadian passports and I can be very persuasive.

  5. Pas44 says:

    Dave made a solid point the other post for the brassard move, in the post he pointed out the age fact. Hayes is so young, he shows some saweeeeet hands.
    I would like to see him mature… grow with those skills…

    Steph is also younger then Brass…

    I think I am leaned toward Brass being traded for value, or if not keep them all, especially if we do not bring in any centers…


    Hayes looks like he doesn’t even know how to use his size yet properly…

  6. Mattstake says:

    Guys Hayes has been here for 2 seasons… he’s young.. let’s not give up on him just yet.. This is exactly what Ranger management does.. doesn’t give a guy enough time to develop and gets rid of them way too soon.

  7. Mattstake says:

    Guys Hayes has been here for 2 seasons… he’s young.. let’s not give up on him just yet.. This is exactly what Ranger management does.. doesn’t give a guy enough time to develop and gets rid of them way too soon. he’s still learning…

  8. Chuck A says:

    As opposed to a proven asset such as Brass, what might the Rangers realistically be able to obtain in a Hayes trade? Curious…


    Funny how we analyze who we should get rid of and who we should keep. Get rid of Nash or Stepan or Brassard, which are all good players. The People we can’t get rid of like Dan or Staal or Glass will not be moved. So we will choose which leg you want to shoot because the problems will not be addressed. We need to blow up the team because the elephant in the room, Leopold is still here.
    All the players gave up on him. Which limb do you want to get rid of? I suggest the brain!

  10. Todd N says:

    Where does Brass ardent and Stepan rank in the nhl as centers?
    I’m guessing but I bet they are not in the top ten.
    I think they are operated and get credit as fan favorites.
    We can afford to lose one of them
    There is a need for a true 1st line center on this team. Hopefully one with size speed and grit.

    • Hatrick Swayze says:

      Neither one are in the top 10.

      • Ray says:

        Then again, neither is Stamkos. Top ten centers are hard to come by.

        • Rangers Fan in Boston says:

          There are only 10 of them in the entire league….

          • Fotiu is God says:

            Nigel Tufnel: Well, it’s one louder, isn’t it? It’s not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You’re on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you’re on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?

            Marty DiBergi: I don’t know.

            Nigel Tufnel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?

            Marty DiBergi: Put it up to eleven.

            Nigel Tufnel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.

  11. TomM says:

    Very thoughtful. But I think NYR have no chance short of a miracle to win the Cup in 16-17, so I would be more inclined to speculate, if we can call it that, with younger rather than older players with the future in mind. If a center must be traded, I would trade Brassard before Stepan or Hayes. I think we know what Stepan can do but the jury is out on Hayes. A man with his size and hands is not easy to come by and those features cannot be taught. Defense, face offs, etc. can be taught. I would hang on to Hays.

    If a rebuild is the plan, then I would offer Lundquist the election to opt out in which case i would trade him but only for a good return.

    Last, I would call in AV and ask him point blank if he is prepared to work with young, inexperience players. I think he is a good coach, but he has shown a preference for veteran players and there is no way that NYR can go that route successfully because of accounting problems.

    • paulronty says:

      Everything on here is speculation so don’t apologize for it. As the man said above the coach is the elephant in the room in my view and one cannot say that there is no interaction effect between coaches & players performance. What happened in Pitt amply shows that. Ulf’s comments on AV were very, very interesting and ran counter to the false consensus bias you often see on here. He disagreed that Torts was strictly a defensive oriented coach which is the mythological “truth” and characterized AV as an “all around” coach & not the guy with the offensive only personna he is often characterized with. The comments were interestingly understated,

    • Ray says:

      No, short series are crapshoots. The Rangers probably won’t win the Cup next year, but they can if everything goes right. They are certainly far better positioned now than the Kings were five years ago.

      I haven’t looked at odds and it may be that Pitt and Chicago have a 20% chance to win next year while the Rangers are at 5%, but we are not talking about a miracle.

  12. Bobby B says:

    Hayes is a soft player in a big man’s body, A defensive liability, we have enough of those. I would try to package him with Staal and get speed and grit in return. Looks like Milan Lucic will hit the free agent market. If I was Gorton I would do everything possible to get him.

    • Chris A says:

      Yes, let’s sign Lucic so we can run him out of town on two years when he posts 35 points with a $7M cap hit.

    • Walt says:

      Sorry Bobby, your looking for speed, and youth, but want another diesel in the line up???? Wrong player, wrong time, wrong cost, wrong age, did I miss anything??????

  13. Alec says:

    Hayes is not young, he was drafted 6 years ago. He is in his prime, but not ready for it. Not having Hags beside him many not have been beneficial to his game, but he needs to step it up. In a USA hockey sense, he’s a playmaking winger and needs to be deployed as such.

    • paulronty says:

      Bros, you speak the truth, Hayes is a playmaking WINGER. He will never be an NHL level centre.

  14. 43 says:

    If we qualify him, he signs with another team, what compensation would we get in return?

    • Hatrick Swayze says:

      Draft pick compensation depends on the dollars in the deal he signs elsewhere. The more money they sign him for, the more/higher end picks we get.

      • Chris A says:

        Since it would take a contract well over $3M for the Rangers to not match Hayes’ offer, the Rangers should get a 2017 2nd round pick as compensation (based on the 2015 compensation chart). If someone went to $4M or higher it would mean a 1st and 3rd next summer.

        • Hatrick Swayze says:

          Thanks Chris, I was too lazy to dig up the info.

        • 43 says:

          Goodness, I hope they don’t sign Hayes at $3 mil. That’s outrageous.

          • Chris A says:

            Right, but if someone forced the Rangers hand with an offer sheet at $3M the Rangers would have to match it since a 2nd round pick in the 2017 draft is terrible compensation for Hayes.

            Anything less than $3M and the Rangers would match it without a second thought.

            This is why offer sheets are dumb, the only way you can get one to go through (go through meaning not being matched) is by paying a player far more than their actual production merits.

  15. AD says:

    Hayes + Staal w/20% salary retention is the package to shop.

    Giter done Jeff!

  16. Richter1994 says:


  17. bernmeister says:

    Can’t disagree w/this article more vociferously.

    Hayes stays, for reasons noted – size, youth, cost controlled.
    Not likely to get over premium you need to replace him.

    Need to:
    sell high move ALL of Brass, Stepan + Zuc, possibly McD as well
    replacing them w/futures, ELCs etc will also help w/how many fewer bodies need be protected during expansion

    Stepan + Nanne + Rangers 2017 1st
    Dumba + Vanek at 4 cap dump + Wild 2016 1st (15OA)

    McD + Brass + 15OA
    Werenski + Rychel + 3OA + Clarkson (slightly reduced, cap dump)

    various options on Zuc
    Staal, Nash eventually highest bidders

    • Flip says:

      Welp, glad you’re just some random schmuck on the Internet and not actually running a hockey club cuz this trade is among the worst I’ve ever heard suggested.

      I trade Wayne Gretzky for an avocado, an ice pick and a snorkel

  18. Chris C says:

    Coming off a sub par year,Hayes should be resigned at a bargain.If he is looking for north of 3 million,take the draft pick and move on or leave him unsigned.

  19. Ranger 11 says:

    Yeah that’s it trade Brass Step Zucc n everyone else n see if we can get captain Crunch and an 8th round pick. That’s the move that would clearly put this team over the top. If we can’t get that trade to happen. Then trade Lundqvist, Mac, JT, n Kreider for Mickey Mouse n Mr.Magoo. That would give the team some speed n toughness. Everything I just said made as much sense as half these trade proposals I see here.