Keeping Kevin Hayes? Contending? Why not?

Normally I like to build up a post and make the title more thematic than anything, but here, since I’m assuming it’s the first thing you see anyways, and I want to get straight to the fun stuff, I’m putting it out there right away. There’s been a lot of debate about Kevin Hayes since the impasse last season that resulted in his one-year deal, and frankly there’s no need to rehash that. What matters is the future, and as a buddy explained in the escalator tower at the Garden regarding the Bostonian Big Man, we should probably just go ahead and re-sign him given his evident talent and utility to the team.

I asked him what about Mika Zibanejad, and he said to keep him too, which broke through in blunt terms the potentially false dichotomy (I mean maybe we can only keep one or the other, but as I’m about to explain I think we can have our cake and eat it too) that has governed much of the discussion around the two centers. I’m still of the opinion that you could trade Mika right now and get a king’s ransom, but I’m also not opposed to keeping a point-per-game player in his prime I suppose. In any event it’s fun to imagine different things as we approach the deadline.

I want to introduce another player into this discussion before we go anywhere else, and that’s Chris Kreider. You’ll see how he figures in to the broader discussion as I wonder out loud how we can build maybe two separate contending teams under David Quinn (or whoever comes next beyond that). I think it’s worth stipulating up front that in this hypothetical he is, alongside Zibby and Hayes, a core member of the team, at least for the short/medium term. He’s having a career year, and while he may not age well he might still be able to crank out goals and drive offense for the next let’s say four years, maybe even five.

We’re going to need to stipulate another thing here as well before diving into it (there will be plenty of caveats and argumentative assumptions to unpack afterwards as well, don’t worry), and that’s GMing. It’s going to be hard to pull this off, and if Jeff Gorton is reading this,

1. I have full faith in you, and
2. you’d be an all-time great if you did manage to swing it and everything went according to plan.

Ok, also, while you’re here, or in your office, or wherever you make General Manager decisions for the sake of our favorite hockey team, I’ll be graduating from law school in two years and would love a job. Alright, that’s enough of that, let’s have some fun.

Jettisoning the assumption that we can only keep Hayes or Zibanejad, let’s remember that the big problem with the Rangers this year is that there simply aren’t enough good players to go around. So it follows that we should try and keep more good players around. Simple enough, but there’s the big concern of time and money as you travel onward through a rebuild, as well as the idea that you can get something sweet long-term if you sell at precisely the right moment. It sure seems like now’s the moment, huh? I mean that contract is going to be a real doozy. All of that money, tied up for 6-7 years? Yeesh. We’ll wind up in a cap crunch needing to send away some young player we’d rather keep down the road, and that’s exactly what you don’t want to do. But just you wait, because I’m pretty sure GMJG can make it all happen.

Hayes is going to want his payday, and rightfully so, but he’s also going to want some job security. He’s also also going to want his payday – no, not that one, the other one. See if we can land Hayes on a four-year deal but with some extra cashola on top to make it worth his while, his prime years are as a Ranger, he makes a ton of dough, and if he keeps up the good work he can be a good ol’ fashioned 30-year-old UFA making way too much money, but at that point he’d no longer be our problem. Him and the other guy, the one with the funny hair cut and sick DJing skills (work on your game, kid), would look mighty fine as a Blueshirt one-two punch.

The dollar amount on Hayes would likely be $7 million just about, which probably gives most of you pause, but remember it’s four years, with the last bit of it being prime rental time if this doesn’t go according to plan. Plenty of options there – you can always retain salary and make a very attractive asset out of that deal, should it become necessary (he’d probably have some kind of no-trade list but if he wants all 31 dang teams on it he can head to Winnipeg right now, thanks for playing).

So to take stock we’ve got … two good players. Need some more I reckon if we’re looking for even a snowball’s chance in hell, but the good news is we actually have a couple. The big name is Kreider, who is also going to likely want a serious big-kid contract, again, totally understandably. This might become an impasse that forces a trade unfortunately, but locking him down for a similar deal to Hayes – high AAV in order to buy a shorter term – would mean you’ve now got three good players! Ok, nice.

There’s a question I can hear you all asking, the same one my dad asks in any political discussion (he’s great though and we really do see eye-to-eye ideologically speaking), and that’s this: How are we going to pay for it all? Especially since we’re going to need more than three players, and all of this money being thrown around (not mine or yours, thankfully) means somebody’s going to have to take a haircut. The answer is simple though, because we’re going to do it all the way any well-managed NHL team does things, which is subsidizing those big contracts with collective-bargaining-mandated entry-level contracts. Good thing we’ve actually got a few of those hanging around, right?

One of the assumptions this whole proposal rests on, which I’m sure you’ve intuited by now if you are even still reading, is that the young players need to be good. This is another juncture at which reasonable people can disagree, and it’s a point well taken.

Offsetting big contracts with little ones doesn’t get you far if the little ones are replacement level players anyway. What you need when you’re paying guys at or near market value is more than one guy playing well above his pay grade. My optimistic attitude towards the Baby Rangers is holding this together for me at this point, but honestly why be anything but optimistic about sports? You’ll drive yourself nuts otherwise, and on the relatively improbable chance the stars do align you called it first (not to mention you called a Cup win like four years ahead of schedule, which is exciting enough in its own right).

That’s a long-winded way of saying we would, in these circumstances, absolutely NEED Lias, Filip, Brett, Pavel, Vitali, and anyone else who’s ready and able to join the cause to really hit their stride right out the gate, or at least right in the last stretch run (we’d probably be a 7 or 8 seed in this whole hypothetical, which is fine by me – more on that later). Still, I feel confident in their abilities as a whole, and there’s one guy who I feel one-hundred-million-percent confident in to help keep the team in it through thick and thin while we take a stab at a Cup, one last time for all the glory in the world, and that’s Henrik Lundqvist.

This should not go understated: Henrik Lundqvist is still, and likely will remain so for at least the timeframe we’re looking at here, an elite goalie. He carried some deeply mediocre Rangers lineups to the playoffs, kept us in it when we needed that extra push, and despite not closing the deal well, it wasn’t him that couldn’t close. Those teams were only sort of contenders, but here’s another bold stance I’ll take: you only need to be sort of a contender to win the Stanley Cup with Henrik Lundqvist, maybe even without.

If the Rangers sneak into the playoffs as a wildcard team or even eke out a third place finish in the Metro, I’ll take my chances thank you very much. He is, in my opinion, the third best goalie ever and someone who always beats the odds, quite literally, and if you did the past decade or so over again I think you win the Cup at least once, if not multiple times. Different matchups, weird bounces where there weren’t any in our current incarnation of planet Earth, and injuries not happening – yeah, the Rangers were legit enough to win a Cup between 2010 and 2018, they just didn’t.

The point of this is we could get around to rectifying that, because with Hank in the postseason there’s always a chance. Not to mention, if he’s tired or not playing so great, we can call in our secret weapon Igor Shestyorkin, who while probably not a Hank clone (not sure that’s possible) could certainly be a low-key surprise once Benoit Allaire has had maybe ten minutes with him. It’d be a nasty tandem that could make things work, and with enough firepower up front I’d definitely roll the dice.

Now, what if this doesn’t go according to plan? Well here’s the good news, you only gave your new core members three to five year contracts and they remain in their primes; you could sell on one or all of them if you really decide this rebuild needs recharging, but my point here is that the rebuild doesn’t need to be one way or the other.

We can have our cake and eat it too, keeping good players, shedding some of the expendable ones in order to keep fuel in the tank, and if worse comes to worst pull another, potentially bigger, fire sale. At that point your young guys who were all on ELCs but now need long-term deals become your new core to build around, and Kreider, Hayes, and Zibanejad all depart having given us their best years and a few more years’ worth chances at a Cup for Hank. You keep the ball rolling and pick up more high quality youngsters, now complimenting Lias, Filip, and Igor instead of those guys complimenting Zibanejad, Hayes, and Lundqvist, and we’ve got some more contending years. Not so bad, I don’t think.

Ok so two problems, now that you’ve sat through nearly 2000 words of me spitballing. First, and I said this before, but it’d be incredibly hard to make this all happen. We’re assuming best case scenarios on somewhere around a half dozen major inflection points (I didn’t actually count, but it’s a lot of traffic lights we need to make), and that’s not easy to do at all. Jeff Gorton sure has his work cut out for him, and that’s without even looking at the elephant in the room. You see, I’ve left out an major, important, can’t-live-with-’em/can’t-live-without-’em component of any hockey roster: the defense.

That’s more than I can even compute and would likely make this entire thing even more difficult than the already easier-said-than-done plan I’ve laid down, and probably might just prevent it from happening altogether. Still, if Gorton can wiggle his way out of his defensive issues and make everything else click I really think we’ve got about four years’ worth of dark horse shots at the Cup (which are as good as any – Cup favorites by all of the fanciest calculations have around a 20% chance of winning it all, so you may as well push) and then hopefully about four or five more if you really jump off properly from there.

This has been an exhausting and not-even-exhaustive account of how we might be able to have it all, and I’m honored if you have indeed read all of these 2000+ words thus far. This is all based on a fun discussion I had that really stoked some interesting thoughts on what we might want this team to look like going forward with a good dude who suggested, with the right mix of “just saying” but also humility in his voice, that magic beans can only get you so far. We need good players to win hockey games, and we already have some, so let’s find a way to play this whole thing to our advantage. At the very least it’d be super fun, or at least fun to write about in the afternoon when you should be learning every short-form citation there is for different federal and state statutes. Thanks for being here guys!

PS: drop a big name free agent in there and you’ve got yourself a team, put it in the books.

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  • “What matters is the future, and as a buddy explained in the escalator tower at the Garden regarding the Bostonian Big Man, we should probably just go ahead and re-sign him given his evident talent and utility to the team.”

    That wasn’t me, lol.

    Trade em, trade them all…

  • Your willing to tie up some $7 million a year for a possible 55-60 point player, who may never score that much again? Please send me what ever it is that your smoking. Hell, if that’s the case, why did we trade away Stepan in the first place?

    Hayes is selfish, and is money hungry. I don’t blame him for going to any team to get his pay day, that’s professional sports, and I’m fine with it. I dislike the bull crap of I love this team, this town, this locker room, this toilet as well. The guy is as full of crap as is Mint, his agent, and attorney! I understand the city of New York named a street after Kevin, “One Way”, that should keep him here don’t you think?

    I find it ironic that we all thought the team was going to get a haul for this guy, and it appears that the rest of the NHL isn’t on the same page. Where are the other 30 GM’s trying to knock down our door to make a deal? There aren’t any, why? See the above paragraph for the answer. Look, the guy isn’t that bad, as a #2, #3 center, but to pay him like a #1 is nuts. Trade him for as much as we can get, thank him for his services, and then show him the door. If he was sincere about his love for the team, and city, he would have signed last year for a reasonable amount, and security. No, he made demands that JG couldn’t, or wouldn’t meet, and so the rest will be history. AMF!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Walt didn’t he cause a fuss with the first Signing as well IIRC? Or was it with the first team and he dragged it out and found us?

      • He was drafted by the Blackhawks, but didn’t want to play for them, so he stayed in college for the four years, then cam to us. Again they named a street after the guy “One Way”!!!!!

    • I don’t mean to single you out Walt, but I see this too often…$7M is no longer outrageous, at all, for a second line center. Here’s how a team can end up with a true second line center for any amount significantly cheaper than that:

      1. Young player signed a long contract for security before he unexpectedly got really good, and now is stuck getting paid below his market value for that security.
      2. Hasn’t hit UFA yet.
      3. Player gives a major discount to stay.

      $7M *IS* 2nd line center money in today’s market. Yes, there are (very lucky) teams that have managed to produce/possess essentially two first line centers…Crosby/Malkin, McDavid/Leon, Stamkos/Point, Tavares/Matthews, etc. However, eventually, their second liners get paid like first liners anyway in most cases – whether it be with that same team, or after hitting UFA.

      Hayes has the 41st most points among centers in the NHL right now. Regardless of any standards we may have in our heads for point thresholds per line, Hayes is definitely a valid 2nd line center right now, and there is nothing about his game that should deteriorate due to age any time soon. $7M per would not be an overpay for him at this time and this stage in his career. That’s a perfectly acceptable sum.

      BTW, Step is 75th in points right now. While I surely understand part of that is being in AZ with that roster, it’s not like Hayes has elite wingers on his flanks either. I think the Rangers’ idea was that Hayes would produce as well as Stepan. Now that we’re here, it’s a damn shame if you ask me that Hayes is probably going to be shipped off for whatever the best offer is, lukewarm as it may be.

      We don’t know what offers Gorton is getting/has gotten for Hayes. I bet there have been some, though. I bet there were some last deadline, there were some last summer, and there are some right now. I’m also of the thinking Gorton already saw his best offer for Hayes come and go, personally. I really hate how he has gotten himself stuck in the middle with the player having 100% of the leverage, though. So, maybe I’m just being a grump about it all around. Either way, $7M per is fine for Kevin Hayes. It’s the fit that makes it a sticky situation with the position Gorton is in with this roster right now. Kevin Hayes is a very valuable hockey player at this point in his career, and other GMs should be licking their chops at the position Gorton has put himself in, here.

      • Sorry to say we are on different pages on Hayes. I just hate his game to be honest, looks slow, and disappears on many occasions. As for the pay scale, I decline to accept that it’s the norm, not for this guy as far as I’m concerned!!!!!!!

        • .86 points per game played is .86 points per game played. That’s a second line center. I don’t care if Hayes plays the style of game I like watching the most. If he was disappearing, he’d be benched more often – especially since AV and Quinn have both shown little tolerance for when they believe a player is doing that. As for how slow he supposedly looks, it’s amazing to me that narrative is even still around. He’s a big man, and has a long stride. While players with that skating style surely won’t be confused with the league’s burners, that doesn’t mean they are slow, either. If Hayes was constantly getting burned or showed no speed through the neutral zone, there might be something to that. Neither is actually the case, however. In fact, that’s one of the better things about him at this point, actually – if he was a burner, you’d be looking at his age and wondering when he loses a step if he could be the same player. That’s not a concern with Hayes any more than it was with Joe Thornton, because that’s not a cornerstone of his game (and no, not saying Hayes is on Thornton’s level at this age – just noting a similar general size and style).

      • You make some good points about Hayes’ worth here, Eg—but I’ve got a couple of devil’s advocate type questions to ask:

        With Zib/Hayes as 1A/1B centers—good players but not in the realm of Crosby/Malkin, Matthews/Tavares, or Giroux/Couturier—aren’t the Rangers setting themselves up for another Stepan/Brassard or Richards/Stepan situation? In other words, does having 2 solid yet not elite performers as their top 2 centers beat the teams that have legitimate elite talent in their top 2 centers? We’ve seen the results of this plan before—good enough to get to the Finals, but not good enough to win a championship.

        Second—if Hayes is this good, why is the team this bad? Any player looking to become the highest paid forward on the Rangers ought to have some sort of uplifting effect on their teammates, whether through on-ice chemistry/performance or leadership. Does keeping Hayes really benefit anyone but Hayes and his agent? Are the Rangers really that much worse without him?

        Curious as to your thoughts on this.

        • I’m not actually arguing for them to retain him right now so much as I’m simply pointing out that $7M is no longer an outrageous sum for this type of NHL player. I expect a lame and underwhelming return that offers a low chance of the return ever equaling Hayes’s production, and will be ecstatic if Gorton dunks all over me on that. I pray that two GMs get in a pissing contest for his services, otherwise I’m not sure I’d expect that Gorton does better than a late 2nd and B/project prospect. I will be quite glad to be wrong and eat crow about that, of course.

          I also am operating under the continued assumption that this team is not going to truly tank enough to amass 3-5 years’ worth of lottery picks. I do think that matters in the discussion. The brass just isn’t interested in it, it seems. Last year was the right time for Gorton to truly tear it down to the studs, if he was going to do that, between the deadline and the summer opportunities. I actually think they sent the letter because they think that’s what they were doing by moving McD and Nasher. As has been noted here and in other spaces though, it’s really been a fair number of half-measures for the most part. So, I’m operating under the assumption that this regime wants to contend in two years. Not five. Not seven. Whether any number of fans like it or not, I just feel that is what the signs point to. You don’t bring in players like Spooner/Strome and Names when you’re expecting to be complete-rebuild-bad for five years. You certainly don’t do something completely silly like give up draft picks for a McQuaid type.

          I don’t usually answer questions with more questions, but…what happens if Mika goes down with more concussion problems? What happens if Chytil really is a winger? What happens if the Howden we saw outside of his first three-weeks or month is who he truly is? What happens if Lias is Oscar Lindberg 2.0? Barring a crazy blockbuster trade or a really fortuitous draft pick outside of the range where such players often fall, the Rangers aren’t getting an elite NHL center any time soon unless they spend a raging boatload of cash to do so. And hey, maybe they go get an elite winger at some point in the next couple years by taking the $6M-7M Hayes wants and adding $3-4M, and maybe they have a crazy good first line with Kreider-Mika-New Guy. Which is better, a 1A and 1B, or a 1A and a 3B/4A though? The latter is what they probably have right now without Hayes, and that might even be a bit generous to Howden given how bad he looked for so long before they demoted him. I think they probably are a fair deal worse without Hayes, personally. It’s not that Hayes is irreplaceable in a cosmic sense, it’s that there is no replacement in this system at the moment and quite possibly for the foreseeable future.

          The quickest reason I can give you for why the team is so bad is a two-pronged approach: a defense that is, almost night-in and night-out, an embarrassment to the sport of hockey (skill, scheme, deployment…you name it), and our wingers have some finishing problems in general and are stacked too heavily to the pass-first side of the spectrum. Those are, to me, the two easiest answers.

          • I love all the points you make. I just think the one thing we all forget about Mika is his play level hasn’t been proven. As in …it has only happened since Zuc came around and started to play like Zuc. If you take Zuc away …what happens to Mika? He has to prove it to me outside of having elite players on his line. And getting mostly offensive zone starts and all the PP time he can handle. The game isn’t 1 directional. Teams will push back.

            Where as with Hayes…he keeps producing despite being given limited PP time, worse linemates, and facing a harder group of talent on the other end. I am sure his faceoffs are still defensive zone sided.

            Just cause someone gets hot doesn’t mean they are the answer to our prayers for a elite center. Anyone who has watched this team for a long time can back me up on that. I want to see Mika do this for more then a couple months and then I would make my decision regarding Hayes. There is still the summer and pre draft trades. There is always a window.

          • Hayes should have been traded or extended by the season’s first puck drop. Gorton either has to take the best offer now no matter what it ends up being, with other more premium talents on the market…or get cornered on $/term and give Hayes (or his agent) what they want now. Sometimes I don’t think Gorton gets enough flack for how stupid this situation has become, and for some reason people are giving him a pass because Kevin and his camp negotiate like hardasses. Was this not made clear when Hayes spurned Chicago? Is this a surprise? There’s not much of a point to keeping Hayes past the deadline if he’s just gonna walk in June, and someone is gonna give him the contract he is looking for. On the other hand, on the one percent chance Hayes really does truly highly value being a Ranger at this point, well, his people can call Gorton as soon as UFA opens. So, I totally understand that point – he’s 99% likely to be traded.

            It’s just a shame, though, really. How long have we been talking about needing a big-bodied “homegrown” center who can actually protect the puck, play enough defense to be able to take third-line and second-line match-ups, and pass? He’s not elite, but that doesn’t mean his skill set won’t be missed on this team. Fingers crossed, Gorton pulls off something I don’t have faith that he can.

          • I have made my feelings on Gorton Sather very clear all year. They should be fired and I will leave it at that.

            I said it over the summer that it was stupid to sign a 1 yr contract with Hayes. Took all the trade leverage away. I believe it was a prove me contract and Hayes to his benefit has done so with flying colors. Either pay him now, trade him or lose him for nothing. These are Gorton’s options at this point. I don’t believe a trade is a win at this point with the market saturation …so that leaves really only 1 option.

            And when a guy like Shattenkirk gets 6.6 million for 4 years…..what do you tell your star 2nd line center, who has done everything you have ever asked of him? No we won’t give you 7 million? I would much rather have Hayes on this roster then Shattenkirk. And I doubt I am alone in that thinking.

            And like you I am not advocating for the signing. I have said a 1000 times he is a poor man’s Zettenberg. But you made the bed Gorton/Sather…now sleep in it. Stupid contract after stupid contract to bring in maybe/has been free agents with tons of hype has gotten us where exactly?

            But everyone thinks I am an idiot for wanting Sather/Gorton’s head.

            If they can front load Hayes’ contract to make it a initial heavy cap hit and then lower it as the years go on that is going to be the trick. I really don’t know enough about the cap rules to say whether it is possible or not. But now is the time to pay him high early and let it dwindle down as the years go on. Give him a huge signing bonus up front and ease the rest of the cap hit as he ages and production slows. I believe he is a solid number 2 center and a amazing 3rd line center. Can you win a cup with him as one of your front line centers? I believe so. I don’t see mika in that same light. I think right now mika is lights out, but show me that level of play with fast and buch as your linemates.

            This team is a one trick pony right now. Depth is something sorely needed. And it is needed everywhere.

  • That’s a great analysis. It’s also doable, but can we still say, sign Panarin? And these guys are playing great now. Do they block or mentor the young kids? You touched on the D. I’d you want to sign all these players Shatty, Smith and another D man need to go. Even if we retain half their salaries so be it. But we’ll run out of cap space. If we clean out the D this may work. I think we need to move Staal to, but I see that as near impossible

  • Hayes at $7M is a little high for my taste. If that is the number, then I would have to pass. Not that he isn’t a good value at $5.2M, but we cannot pay that much for a #2C who just does not score enough. I think he needs to be moved and we need to recoup some assets. We are not a team that is 1 player away, so stock the minors and move forward.

    In fact move as many of the older assets and defensemen as possible so we can revamp the backline, which needs all the help it can get.

  • Hard to agree with the point of this incredibly long article. There’s a lot of wishful thinking here and I wasn’t sold on much of it. I don’t see how settling for mediocrity (remember, regardless of how good Zib/Hayes/Hank are, this team still sucks) and hoping for a red-hot playoff run out of a lower seeding is justifiable in the pursuit of excellence. It sounds like a James Dolan strategy of team building—come see us, we might win!!—rather than a coherent program intended to strengthen the team.

    Becoming the East Coast version of the “one round and done” Minnesota Wild isn’t appealing.

  • I’d be on the side that says keep Hayes unless someone makes an offer that is too good to refuse, but I don’t see that happening. Mika is making a little over $5 million. Hayes doesn’t rate anything over a low $6 million per year and I’d top out the term at 5 years if possible. But the bottom line is that he is a good player who’d be hard to replace, so I think keeping him if a reasonable contract can be worked out makes sense.

    $7 million a year is too much.

  • Well you already know where I stand by the Hayes topic. Our one two punch should be getting the full support that it deserves. Zucc and Zib have the real on ice chemistry. I also think that Zib is one of those as good as his linemates which will make his game stronger. He wasn’t doing to much without Kerosene and Zucc in late October through mid December.

    Hypothetical: Hayes and Zucc are tight friends away from the rink. What if those two team up to join a team like Philly or dare I say the Isle? Hayes alone would give this team fits if he went to go help Barzal or Coots/Giroux for Philly. That’s what can happen when you add Hayes with a legit 1c and shooters in the top 6.

    Shatty and Skjei aren’t worth the 11+ million dollars between them. They aren’t proven winner’s that can handle Broadway like Hayes and Zucc can be.

    • Who cares where they go? Let them sign with the Flyers or the Islander. Not trading them is a big mistake. This rebuild needs to continue and that means trading all of the expiring contracts.

  • Nobody on this non-playoff team should be untouchable for the right price, except the 1st line center.

  • I understand (sort of) the front loaded aspect of Hayes’ contract. But I think you summed up the plight of this team in your penultimate paragraph when you stated “ if Gorton can wiggle out of his defensive issues” …. that’s the main problem IMO.
    I’m not on the Hayes bandwagon, however sign him reasonably AND give me one high quality (elite) defenseman and another above average one to go along with ADA and Claesson and 2 youngsters and we will be a team, as you say with the right bounces and Hank, that can get to the conference finals in the playoffs, IMO.

  • We absolutely have choices to make and those choices will impact our future either way.

    Hayes is talented and as noted there are not enough good players to go around. I’ll leave the fancy stats to the others, but prior to this year Hayes has averaged 45 points and 77 games through 4 seasons. His numbers this year (42 points/49 games) are no doubt exceptional.

    I don’t think anyone can definitively identify the drivers of Hayes’ improvement. But, two big things have changed. His coach and his contract.

    Hayes spoke highly of Quinn upon his hire and the two do have the Boston connection and some level of a prior relationship. His contract is interesting in that he settled on a one-year “show me what you got” deal. I applaud that approach as it is pretty rare in professional sports today. And he certainly has made the best of it. I would guess that both the coach and the contract have influenced his play this year.

    So the question is, are the NYR better over the next four years with him and his $7M or so salary or, are they better with the assets he can bring back and the use of the $7M in other places?

    Long story short – The thing that worries me the most is how he will react to that big contract. I fear that he has that athletic gene that takes things for granted and I am not sure how having $30 million in his pocket is going to be reflected in his play. I agree with Walt in that paying him that kind of money based on one season is a huge risk.

    For me this is a no-brainer – let the bidding begin. With the Ranger’s talent evaluation expertise (or lack thereof) I would prefer getting a can’t miss prospect and another high potential youngster rather than a first rounder.

    At this point there are some very attractive UFA’s ready to hit the market – Panarin, Duchene, Stone, Skinner, and let’s not forget Erik Karlsson. I would much rather get the assets for Hayes and use the $7M or so toward making a run at one of the elite UFA’s that are out there.

  • All 2000+ words.
    It’s just so optimistic.
    “…absolutely NEED Lias, Filip, Brett, Pavel, Vitali, and anyone else who’s ready and able to join the cause to really hit their stride right out the gate…”
    Let’s look at this. If all of these players became impact players and they also produced a D-core – the NYRangers would be\have the most successful developmental program in all of sports. Every single organization in sports would be looking to learn the secret. That’s video game level success.
    Keeping Hayes is fine, the situation is better than trading him away for some draft picks (so lame). But what you have indicated is that you have little faith that Andersson or Howden will be 2nd line centers. Also that one also isn’t a 3rd line center. Also, Chytil is a winger not the natural center we thought. Perhaps Andersson isn’t either in this scenario and is moved to wing. Buch is only a 3rd line winger. That Kravstov will just adjust inside a summer (sorry dude this one is too much)… dominos falling.
    What will make this all the more confusing will be the returns for who is traded in the next couple of days. It’s almost 100% going to have a couple of forwards in the mix. If not another center or two.
    Now who’s playing wing?
    The Bread Man?

  • The problem I see is that it does not seem like the phone is ringing off the hook in Gorton’s office with offers for Hayes. I’d hate to lose him for much less than he is worth. Because it would have made sense for a possible contender to try to grab him sooner rather than later I fear that low ball offers will be made at the deadline. I hope that Rangers don’t get fleeced.

    • We really don’t know Peter, I bet he’s getting calls but everybody is waiting on the Sens and the Jackets. It’s a buyers market, but that can change in a day.

  • i think if Hayes would take 4 years even at an over pay a deal woulda been done already. 2c prospect depth is an issue. Even if they tab one in the draft not named Hughes they are college bound most likely. Chytil is a LW to me. Lias… Not even gonna bring it up here.

  • I would be willing to go $6.5 for term, but anything more would give me pause. When you get right down to it $6.5m isn’t really THAT much — I mean sure I would like to keep it at $6m, but I wouldn’t let 500k bother me too much, he’s a hard player to replace considering he plays in every situation. What’s really important is 1) front loading the contract, 2) keeping the term under 7 years and 3) any NTC has to be limited. That said I’m not against trading him if the haul is right, otherwise I would just wait for a more opportune time to do that. This is a buyer’s market for the moment, unfortunately.

    Also I’m not sure I fully understand all these comments about his “softness” or about his personality (money hungry and selfish as WALT would say). He may not be your prototypical “power” forward, but he isn’t shy … and I can’t blame the guy for wanting as much money as he can get from the team (meaning the Rangers), I mean who here really knows what he’s asking for? It’s all innuendo and rumors, eventually the truth will come out.

    Bottom line is he’s in his prime and has years of prime left in him. He has a great relationship with the coach and I suspect much of the team — and chemistry has to count for something. He’s improved every year aside from his 2nd (and I suspect he missed having a player like Hagelin on his line). So unless I can get a 1st and a Top prospect from someone (or a pick and two really good prospects), I say pass on trading him and sign a contract.

  • Everybody wants a fast rebuild, how does Hayes being traded achieve that? I think you achieve that with Hayes on your team for a few more years. I say trade what you don’t want in a rebuild, look at a UFA or two and do the best you can with the assets you get. Aside from our own 1st round pick this year (and even that is debatable) anything we get will probably take years to develop into the type of player Hayes is today (and for the next couple of years).

    • Who are you talking about when you write that “everybody” wants a fast rebuild?

      Who in their right mind wants that when you’re staring at an expansion draft 2-1/2 years away? Why build a roster that can compete for a title next year when you would have to tear it apart?

      Show me a 7-3-1 from our current roster and how you build upon that to take out Tampa or Toronto the next two seasons without having to make hard choices after that.

      I would rather have a team like we have right now that plays hard(if not always smart) and loses that will lose hard as soon as we remove 2-3 pieces until after the expansion draft where they can behave like an Las Vegas did because we’ve accumulated long dated picks from other teams.

      • Fine, MOST people, the majority of people — you do read Ranger blogs, right? When I say FAST I mean within the next few years, I don’t see a lot of fans wanting to wait the 5 years it usually takes to rebuild. You can get draft picks and pick well, but the fruits usually don’t ripen for 4-5-6 years — with prospects you can subtract one or two years depending on their age. Out of all the draft choices and prospects you may find a couple that will actually have a real impact on the team before they turn 22-23 but you’ll need more than that if you want to truly contend — unless you’re lucky and draft in the Top 3 or 4 for a run of years (look how that’s worked out for teams like Edmonton). Personally I don’t mind waiting, but I still think the plan all along was to do some serious renovating, not a total knock down and rebuild.

        • This team is in poor shape with Hayes, and going nowhere fast. Resign him and what’s changed, nothing. How does anyone do a rebuild with the same old, same old? You can keep Hayes but I’ll open the door for him as he walks away, because he won’t be here next year………..

          • Except he’s not the same OLD, same hold — he’s in his prime … so unless you want this rebuild to take another 5 years, you need a core of players in their prime years. Besides, it’s a buyer’s market right now. Sign Hayes, he can always be traded later when his value is maximized — and guys under contract do tend to bring in more than pure rentals.

  • Lias is our #2C next year – OMG could you imagine that? Talk about a player not being ready to fill Hayes’ shoes. So who does? Howden? Chytil? Boo Nieves? The cupboard is filled with 4Cs, but no one ready to handle the 2C role. We have no choice but to re-sign him. You can move Zucc and Vesey and Names and everyone on defense, but you cannot move Hayes.

  • Dumb: Let’s rebuild! We HAVE to rebuild!!
    Smart: Let’s resign everyone and trade our garbage for everyone’s elite prospects!

    • Nobody needs our garbage! Other than about 6 players, we ARE an AHL team. We need to restart, re-do, rebuild, start from scratch, whatever. Obtain 10 picks this year and 10 picks next year and pray for some real talent. We are the NHLs version of the NY Knicks – no direction and no real future. THe more I watch them, the more I see a team of guys who try hard but are without strong talent. 2025 we may have a shot.

    • One man’s trash is another man’s …

      I agree, This is a renovation, not a rebuild. We should be looking to trade guys which are either replaceable or who don’t figure into the future beyond say next year. Sure, the haul won’t be as great … but with prospects and draft choices you aren’t replacing guys like Hayes for years (if at all).

  • 2000+ words. More than I speak a day.
    There is no future. There is only now. I have watched Hays grow up these last few years and so have most of you, and I believe he will continue to excel. I look at the newbies and do not see anyone better than Hays in the system. We have no replacement in my opinion. Another thing you can not teach is size. The money problem is tied up on defense including the goalie. Sorry Hankers, he is good but not that good and should not sink the ship. This is a business. Your feelings mean nothing. Zucc gave us a great deal and some of you want to trade him. Vesey chose us and some want to get rid of him.
    Oh ya, the big elephant in the room is Fast.

  • Keeping Hayes at this point makes little sense. He will be 27 in a couple of months and is most likely in his prime right now. He is currently making 5.17 million a year and that is all he is really worth. He is a good player, but not a star player. He is a 40-50 point guy a year with some defensive upside to his game. Not bad, but definitely not worth 6.5 million a year. Let’s try and fine a stupid enough GM, and get a number one pick and a decent prospect. As much as it makes sense, I would hate to see Zucc. go in a trade. Shatty should go, but his high salary could be a deterrent, unless we decide to eat a portion of it.

    • Salaries aren’t what they used to be, you couldn’t sniff a player like Hayes anywhere in the NHL for less than $6m — unless they are under an old contract.

    • I’ve got to disagree Craig. I think that he is about as good of a #2 or #3 center as you will find in the league and with some wingers who can score he’s easiily a 60 point guy. If you work out a 4 or 5 year deal for him you lock him in for his best years. What are the Rangers going to be offered for a rental Hayes? Not a whole lot compared to his value to the team. If they can get a deal done paying him $6 mil to $6.25 I think it is a no brainer. $6.5 might be a little rich but not outrageous.

      A core group of Zibanejad, Hayes, Kreider to lead the team through its transition would be a good thing to have. They don’t have enough good kids right now to field a team without them and would have to spend a lot more to land some free agents who are comparable when the team simply isn’t ready for them.

      • Some good valid points Peter, but if we can get very a good deal (a number one and a prospect), I’d pull the trigger. We are not going to win the cup if we stop building a future team that is younger. We have fallen into that same trap for years. Remember how Callahan(I know he was a little older then Hayes, 29 I believe at the time) wanted a long term contract and now Tampa Bay is stuck with him and his 6.5 mill. contract. It may be possible to resign Hayes next year, but I wouldn’t give him more then four years at 6 million, max. That money could be invested for younger players, to rebuild.

        • No offense to Cally, but Hayes is a much more complete player than Cally ever was, and extremely different skill set. Hayes also commands a bigger paycheck being that he’s a center. In essence though, Cally ran himself into the ground with his style. That style was a huge part of his value at one time when the game was a bit more focused on shot blocking and there were a lower number of speedsters in the league, but it caught up with him big time. There is no such concern with Hayes; in theory, he should age much better due to his build and style.

          • Agree 100 percent that Cally ran himself into the ground, but he was as important a player to the Rangers with his style as Hayes is today. He was the energetic sparkplug that knew how to wake up his team and was an exceptional penalty killer. Two different type players, but equally as important to their team. Cally knew how to hit, create opportunities, and play defense better then Hayes. Hayes never broke (although came close) to the 50 point plateau as did Calahan, though granted, I would over-all give the skill level to Hayes. I wouldn’t say the overall value to the team of Hayes as compared to Cally was a landslide by no means. Cally was also a better team influence personality. I would say equal in value to their teams respectively or pretty close.

          • To clarify, I don’t mean to crap on Cally at all. Definitely don’t mean to short him on credit for his Rangers tenure – just trying to be objective about his past performance. I think Cally was given more opportunity overall through the point in his career that Hayes is at now, and was deployed in a manner that played to his strengths more than Hayes has been. He also was given a lot more minutes than Hayes at a younger age, which of course helps the counting stats. I don’t think Hayes has by any means reached his possible peak production yet, on the other hand. I would not at all be shocked to see Hayes become a 70 point 2C if he lands somewhere that rolls a finisher on their second unit wing, and is logging 21 minutes an outing, for example.

          • Given the difference in ages and style of play I suspect, like Egelstein suggested, that Hayes will not only last longer than Callahan but will be “healthier”.

        • I’d agree that if they are offered a very good deal that it might be worth pulling the trigger. I guess what I am concerned about is dealing him and not getting value back.

          Sure, if he’d take a 4 year deal I’d like that even better. $6 – $6.25 is the range I was considering. Hayes is far more skilled than Callahan so I don’t think that the Rangers are in danger of being stuck with Hayes unless they offer too long of a term. 4 – 5 years max is what I was thinking.

          Everything I’ve written is out the window if he wants a far richer or far longer contract, or if the Rangers get offered a solid prospect and a first round pick in a good position in the draft.

  • Peter – I agree with your take on Hayes and what his $$$ value is to us and the league. And I think the Hayes contract (or lack of) will tell us all we need to know about our rebuild and Gorton’s mindset. Can’t wait to see what happens. Frankly, I think Hayes will take $6M for 4 years and it will be a good deal for both sides. I think Hayes likes the NY life; why the hell wouldn’t he…..

  • Hayes at 5.5 million or even 6 million for 4 yrs is a reasonable contract terms. What Rangers should focus on is getting rid of Shattenkirk, smith, staal even if a team can take half of shattenkirks contract we take the other half nyr should focus on that. Call up lindren and if possible get pannarin either via free agency or trade and definitely try for trouba.

    zucc 2rd 3rd round for trouba (what that be enough it make it a fair deal? )

    Panarin and Trouba should be the players nyr should be all in on. Trouba and Skjei top def pair, panarin makes the 2nd line much better. I think nyr can afford trouba and panarin. Also just think when Igor (khl goalie coming over in a yr or two), nyr would have a good team, quite a few players less than 30yrs year old. We can have a good core group of players. I noticed with both sather and gorton they either get fleeced on a deal or they end up making a great deal. We cannot keep rebuilding for years, Hank is gone after a few more seasons. At least give him one last shot at the cup. If he doesn’t win, Igor will be set up with a good solid defense corp and forwards.

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