Will Kevin Hayes force a rethink in the Rangers plans?

Kevin Hayes will never be a Selke winner. We also know that chances are he’ll never be a top line franchise center. He’s somewhere in between. Hayes has however, proven to be a reliable middle six center who has a strong offensive skill set.

What we are starting to see from Hayes however is that he can be trusted to be used in a defensive role, even if it doesn’t play to his full strengths – at worst he’s not a liability in such a role. The key has to be usage, and not just for Hayes. The Rangers cannot use Hayes as a pure match-up center and the intention should surely be to have three centers who can be trusted at both ends of the ice.

Hayes is probably never going to be a 60+ point guy given the way he is being utilised however, providing Alain Vigneault can utilise his big center properly, Hayes can cause a re-think in the Rangers mid to long term strategy at center. (asterisk attached to this entire piece: can we trust AV to use him properly?).

Full disclosure: I have long been an advocate of the Rangers trading Hayes at some point. I believe that efficient asset management can help negate the absence of lottery draft picks and allow a team to continually evolve while contending. Hayes has brand recognition, a solid body of work as a Ranger, has all the tools to be better than he actually is and has/is somewhat cost controlled. I truly believe the Rangers can get more for him than he will be worth (to them) on his next contract. With that said, Hayes is a fine player and if he stays in NYC then he can be a part of an intriguing center group in New York.

Hayes was excellent against the Oilers Saturday afternoon. Not just for the chances he created but he kept the McDavid line in check and (for those, so inclined) posted an excellent Corsi of 68%. None too shabby against the league’s most dynamic player. Was his performance against McDavid the exception or the eventual norm?

Hayes doesn’t have outstanding Corsi numbers generally speaking, but he also had a strong showing against Tampa Bay as well; arguably the best team in the league offensively. So Hayes is showing he can play against other teams best players and survive. So what does that mean for his long term usage and future in New York?

The next few weeks and months could be telling for the Rangers at the center position. If Hayes emerges as a reliable match-up center it means they can take another look (when deemed ready) at Filip Chytil in an appropriate position: in an offensive, top six role with appropriate offensive zone starts.

It also means there is even less pressure to rush Lias Andersson back to North America at the first opportunity. If he needs to stay in Sweden for an extended period of time it will be a lot more palatable should the Rangers have three solid centers they trust, already in New York. Hayes’ development also allows the Rangers to look for a different kind of center if/when looking to add forward depth should the team remain in the playoff hunt.

The more you think about Hayes and his current role on the Rangers, the more significant his season appears. Hayes influences the team’s behaviour at the deadline, he influences his own long term future (obviously), he has a significant and direct impact on how the Rangers handle their most important two prospects (arguably their most important prospects in a generation) and his own performance obviously has a direct impact on his line mates. Thrown in the fact that, thanks to Hayes, the Rangers eventually feel more comfortable at center that they can stop double shifting Mika Zibanejad and in Hayes, you have a player that is impacting the club in a multitude of ways.

Individually Kevin Hayes is a solid Ranger but the Rangers remain a work in progress at center; the situation at present is one injury away from disaster as there is simply no depth. How Hayes progresses over the next few weeks and months will teach us so much more about the team’s ability to compete this year and their future at the center position beyond 2018.


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  • While I also am not a huge Hayes fan, on a team with limited depth at center, we can ill-afford moving any capable centers at this time.

    He could be part of an off-season package, if Andersson & Chytil are NHL-ready, but that is a “wait until next year” scenario.

    • Andersson or Chytil. Very unlikely the Rangers get have the both of them ready at the start of next season. Andersson was, I think, drafted as an NHL ready replacement for Stepan and Chytil made the team out of camp. So anything is possible but I would think the Rangers would consider themselves lucky at this point to have either of those guys on the opening day roster.
      Personally I think it was a bit of a gamble on Gortons’ part in planning that way but from what I read one of their long time scouts referred to Andersson as a “can’t miss NHL player” and was supposed to be his going away gift to the team. So maybe management is still holding onto hope that they see him again this season on Broadway.

      • Gorton said he wants Andersson to play the entire season in the SHL, so I think we can safely expect that will be the case short of some exceptional situation (not the good kind).

        It seems extremely unlikely the scouting staff was so far off on Andersson that they thought he was an immediate replacement for the 1st line center and then he didn’t even make the team. More like maybe he could replace lindberg in the next couple of years.

        • Andersson’s time in Frolunda will be time well spent. He will learn a lot and hone his skills. He might need just one year there, maybe two. The kid will be a 3C or 4C and a good one when he is ready.

  • Don’t Move #13

    he is getting more powerful and seems to get more in touch with his physical abilities every year. At 25 he hasn’t peaked yet and I feel he is going to become even better for the next few seasons to come.

    • At 25 he’s in his peak years, just the space between the ears wasn’t there yet. It seems to be happening now.

  • I’m a big Hays fan and think Fasth is a good 4th line player.
    At least I am not a Hays Hater!
    Just a Fasth Hater!

  • This offseason: Trade Hayes. Sign John Tavares. Chytil and Anderson’s entry level contracts will help offset JT’s huge contract. We start next year with Tavares, Zib, Chytil, and Anderson down the middle for plenty of years to come.

    Yes you shouldn’t take this too seriously!

    • Probably would have to move McD as well to fit the contract under the cap. I would take this scenario if it could happen. Taveras will sign with Icelanders when they announce new stadium near Belmont Park.

      • Nash is also coming off the books after this season.

        But yea I think J.T. ends up staying with the fish sticks

  • I think Hayes is doing just fine. Not every signing is going to be the next Wayne Gretzky. I like Hayes skill level and he is really starting to round out his game. He is a solid NHLer.

  • Keep in mind Kevin was a “force” most of last year only to totally disappear and be highly ineffective in the spring. As well as he’s playing now, Gorton cannot and should not be blinded into thinking that all is well regarding the need for an upgrade at C.

  • generally good piece.

    Barring exceptional situation clearly understood to the public and requested by the player, no team should trade a college UFA until adequate time with that club, which I consider no less than that player being well underway in his RFA.

    That is the ONLY way to be sure any future college UFA does not feel he signs, and then his vote to choose where he goes is cut out from under him.

    So, no moving Hayes, or Vesey, at least for now.


    As to the asterisk, screw AV.
    Can’t wait til he is replaced.
    GMJG’s job is to get best players possible, and AV is supposed to bend, buckle and break his personal preferences to make sure we get best out of those guys. He does not.
    He plays vets too much
    He makes some crazy player decisions
    He has WAY too many line changes,

    Hayes [and his fab size and decent skating, which is not so easy to find in a package pivot] stays, and AV can go.

    • Interesting point about college UFA signings, though I’m not sure why you’d consider their personal feelings so much—as an organization’s asset, why should they be treated any differently from a draft choice from juniors? I’m more of the kind that an offer’s an offer, a player shouldn’t have a guaranteed future with an organization based on what their status was when they signed their initial pro contract.

      Agree 100% on your Vigneault assessment. This winning streak doesn’t change the fact that his game lineups are a joke, his in-game tactics rigid & bizarre, or that he needs to be dismissed.

  • No, getting a guy like Bozak makes the center position a solid one from top to bottom. You need 4 viable centers in this league.

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