In case you missed it, the Rangers re-signed center Kevin Hayes to a one-year deal at $5.125 million. The deal will bring him directly to his first UFA season at age 27. As per usual, there are some thoughts.
1. I am both surprised and not surprised that the Rangers couldn’t get a long term deal done with Hayes. I’m surprised because I thought that after the Brady Skjei deal, the Blueshirts would prefer to go to long-term deals. However I am not surprised because Larry Brooks not only mentioned it, but Hayes’ name was in trade talks all summer long. I think we can thank the John Tavares sweepstakes –and possibly the lack of an Erik Karlsson trade– for the Hayes situation right now.
2. When you put the pieces together, it appears that the Rangers never viewed Hayes as a long term solution or part of the core. That’s a little unfortunate, since I like Kevin Hayes and what he brings to the lineup. He’s very under appreciated by many folks. Of course I can be completely off base here, and the Blueshirts may look to extend him in January. But that doesn’t strike me as their plan, mostly because they have more players coming, and Hayes’ contract might have been a road block.
3. With this deal, it looks like Gorton and company are banking hard on Filip Chytil and Lias Andersson making significant strides next year. That makes sense, and it’s tough to argue that philosophy. They are the future and they are likely going to need larger roles, and Hayes would take up a spot. From a roster stand point, I completely understand the short term deal.
4. It goes beyond roster spots too. If Andersson or Chytil surpass Hayes, and odds are at least one of them will, then he moves to 3C, and $5 million is a lot for a 3C. From a long term standpoint, this might be good asset management. This may also explain the Ryan Spooner acquisition, as he’s likely a cheaper version of Hayes that can bounce between the second and third lines a little easier.
5. Assuming I’m right about the organization’s long term views on Hayes, I’d expect him to be dealt at some point before the trade deadline. That could be tomorrow, January, or 2:59pm on deadline day. However I expect him to be dealt. It’s a contract year, so let’s hope he puts up monster numbers and drives up his own cost.
6. Hayes has tremendous offensive vision. In his rookie season, he had more primary points (goals, first assists) than the entire league. Yes, the entire league. Since he entered the league, he’s 41st in primary points in the league, and 25th in primary points/60. Suffice it to say, he was a driver of offense. It won’t be easy to replace that in the short term, even with Chytil and Andersson in the fold.
7. I’m bummed that it appears Hayes won’t be with the club long term. However from a pure hockey stance, I see why this decision was made.