A case for bringing back Kevin Hayes

As the Rangers look to accelerate the rebuild, the most obvious hole on the roster that isn’t on the blue line is the 2C spot. Mika Zibanejad is the 1C, and he’s certainly earned that role. But beyond him, the Rangers have a lot of question marks at the 2C role. The in-house options are there, but none are guarantees. The only player, aside from Jack Hughes falling to the Rangers at #2, that can fill this role is Filip Chytil, and while talented, he hasn’t shown that he should be staying at center or can handle that kind of role yet.

With Matt Duchene the primary UFA center target and likely to price himself as such, the Rangers will be looking for cheaper options. It’s arguable that Hayes is the next best UFA center on the market, and he clearly has a history with the Rangers. If the Blueshirts can’t find a 2C filler, Hayes could be a good fit.

He’s cheap(er)

Hayes won’t require a trade to bring him (back) to New York. This allows the Rangers to use their chips elsewhere to address the blue line, where there are no viable free agents. The 27 year old center is likely headed towards a lengthy deal, so he won’t be cheap on the UFA market, but he will certainly be cheaper than Duchene.

Based on Evolving Wild’s free agent calculator –grain of salt: hasn’t been proven yet but the folks behind it are A+ analysis folks– Hayes is likely headed towards a 5-7 year deal. At five years EW has him at $5.85 million per year, six years at $5.87 million, and seven years at $6.7 million. Naturally that seven year deal is one to avoid, but that five/six year deal could be mutually beneficial. Even with Panarin as a target, the Rangers can make this work with the right trades.

Rangers connections

I don’t need to tell you this, but Hayes was with the Rangers for 4+ years before he was dealt to Winnipeg at the deadline. Before Alain Vigneault unceremoniously thrusted him into a defensive 3C role, he was moving towards 50 points and 20 goals as the 2C. Under David Quinn, he put up 14-28-42 in just 51 games. That’s an 82-game pace of 22-45-67 point pace. It can be argued that his struggles with Winnipeg actually benefited the Rangers in this regard.

He’s also not that injury prone. He’s never played a full 82, but he’s never been below 76 games either. Worth noting.

He’s under rated and great value

It’s hard to argue that a player who is projected to get a six year deal at almost $6 million a year is a great value. But when you look at Duchene’s projected $7+ million, you find value, especially when there isn’t much of a statistical difference:

From an offensive contribution point of view, Duchene has the edge here. However it is worth noting that Hayes has an edge when it comes to keeping possession exiting the defensive zone, a key aspect of transition hockey.

He gives the kids a chance to grow

As mentioned above, the worst thing for a prospect’s development is to throw him into a situation where he won’t succeed. We don’t know if Chytil can/will succeed as the 2C. But we also don’t want him thrown to the wolves with no safety net. If he doesn’t succeed there, who else will be the 2C? Lias Andersson doesn’t have the offensive ceiling as Chytil, and Brett Howden struggled mightily after his hot start to the season.

Who else is there? Ryan Strome? That’s less than ideal, although it is at least a step above counting on David Desharnais.

A shorter term stopgap that doesn’t chew up close to $6 million in cap space is likely a better option for the long term rebuild strategy. However what we don’t know is what Jeff Gorton and John Davidson mean by accelerating the rebuild. It’s all speculation at this point. From an on-paper view, Hayes might be a guy that could give them that acceleration to, dare I say, compete again while Henrik Lundqvist is still around.

Of course none of this matter if other holes aren’t addressed first, but we will certainly have a clearer picture of Gorton’s plans in a week. My gut feel is that if they are able to address some blue line issues at the draft, they will spend in free agency. If they can’t address those blue line issues at the draft, then they may be a bit more conservative.

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  • Dave you provided many good reasons why the Blueshirts should sign the big skilled pivot Hayes. The only downside I can see if he is locked into a long-term deal, will the Rangers be in cap hell when it comes time to resigning their young players.

  • If you’re going to sign him, sign him to expose him, get the two good years out of him. Front end the Hell out it.

    That way, Seattle gets to the cap floor that much easier, while giving them a valuable trade chip in case they want to flip him.

    • If you read the Brooks piece from a few days back Gorton is looking (and I’ve been preaching)for as close as you can get to an expansion proof lineup so the following season he has his corps intact. He got dealt a bad hand by the expansion getting pushed back a year, but is otherwise in great shape.

      The only player who’s going to get a NTMC is one who is going to be in his prime in 2 years and better than the 7 who would currently be protected. Not a lot of players fit that bill. Trouba, Ceci & Murray are the only ones who fit that bill.

      GMs don’t just look at next year, but 3 years out. Nobody thought the wheels would fall off Smith so quick or expected Shatty to get hurt before the 1st month of the season was out.

      Me, I’m counting the days until the schedule gets announced so I can start planning out my season travels. On the list: Boston(last city in the NHL I haven’t hit) Chicago & Edmonton(two barns I haven’t made it to.) Trying to block out dates After Thanksgiving so hit Scandinavia and Belarus for Division 1 U20s in mid-December.

  • Ooooooh, is David Desharnais still available?! 😉

    Torn, very torn … I like Kevin but I’m just not sure I want to tie myself down with NTC/NMC to ANYONE right now. I mean 5 years would be fine, the money would be doable … but it’s what else will come with that contract that might bother me. Panarin @ $11m bothers me, Duchene @ $8-9m bothers me, Karlsson just bothers me (injury prone).

    Kreider doesn’t bother me as much, if we’re talking 5-6 years in the $6m range …. but I have to acknowledge that we don’t have a bona fide #2C even though I think with some stops and starts, some hiccups along the way that Chytil can handle the assignment (but we have to be patient and Chytil needs to UP the hardness of his overall game along with greater offensive aggressiveness).

    I think the issue for me is that we don’t have to solve all our issues this summer … and yet that’s what I’m hearing from most people. I think another year of patience and allowing the youngins to further develop is warranted.

    PS: Howden played well after he came back from his injury. Not sure if he’s a bona fide 2nd line center, but I haven’t written him off …

    • Agree Tanto, let Kevin and the Rangers move on. No more 5-7 year NM/NTC contracts to anyone who cant get the team to the finals.The “youngins” need to show their wares for a good sample… 10-15 games same linemates. Let the FO see what is needed. Lets just forget about FA forwards not named Panarin and focus on the back end. Its been a hot mess for years and its priority 1a with Hartford being 1b.

      • Assuming we draft Kakko or Hughes I can live with a Panarin (a LW) signing if he evidences the willingness to leave something on the table to be part of NYC and this culture. If his priority is NO TAX, sunshine and half a fan base that roots for another team (i.e.,. the Rangers), then I’m OK with passing on him.

        The defense is a mess that will be hard to fix in just one summer, but at least we know it will resolve itself within 2 years unless we go and do something STOOPID like sign one of Shattenkirk, Staal or Smith to an extension. lol I’m happy if they just chip away at the problem and let the young d’men not named Fox or Hajek maturate a year in Hartford (assuming it’s fixed).

        • The “no tax” thing is overrated.

          If FL his his American domicile and they frontload (with bonuses and minimum paragraph A salary) the bonuses are under FL tax regimes, so between that and the future value of money, he’ll make more in NYC on the same AAV than Florida on straight salary.

          But much like going after Hayes, sign him to expose him. Seattle is in a no tax state so he gets a break there if that’s a concern.

    • No NMC/NTC to anyone!! This is just bad management. Teams cannot be held at gunpoint by the players any longer. You want to stay, play well! That’s it. Win for us, otherwise we reserve the right to ship you elsewhere. It’s hockey, not civil service!!! These should be outlawed in the next CBA, as well as lower max year contracts…4/5. I would be willing to lock them out for these changes.

  • If Hayes took Eberl’s deal then sign me up, especially if Panarin is a no go due to the fact the Rangers do not want to give out the 7 year, $11M per deal.

    • Eberle’s regular season stats were virtually identical to Vesey. So I I’m sure Hayes is salivating over his possible bonanza. Hayes is in the driver’s seat… just Philly trading for his rights proves he’s a wanted commodity. But, I’ll pass.

      • 6 x 6 wold not be bad either quite honestly. I think it depends on Panarin, whether he’s a legitimate get for the Rangers.

        • Richter… I follow your comments, and Hayes was always on your crap list… why the change? I think we will regret this signing down the road… especially if we have to protect in the expansion draft. Been there done that… too much skepticism for me.

          • I do not have a change of heart, but at some point, we have to think in terms of what the Rangers will do, realistically.

            If the Rangers ARE going to re-sign him, then 6 x 6 is not the worst thing.

            Now, you ask me what I would do? I would not sign him, period. So I am consistent on that. I think that the Rangers would quickly regret it.

            It scares me that the Flyers have not signed him and rumors that Philly is not a top choice for Hayes.

            Hope that clears it up and I apologize for the apparent inconsistent dialogue.

          • “If Hayes took Eberl’s deal then sign me up.”

            Yeah, I re-read that, and I should have added something like “if the Rangers are going to sign Hayes anyway.”

            Sorry, my bad. My head thinks faster than my fingers typing, lol.

          • Not at all, you had every right to call me out on it, it was definitely hypocritical the way I originally said it.

            Thank you for pointing it out to me. 🙂

  • I just don’t like his game, and or his softness, as shown again during the PO’s this season. The guy was so far off the radar that we needed satellite cameras to find him under the bench hiding. He was on a strong roster, and crapped his pants, boy do you think the Pegs had buyers remorse?

    I think the Chytle kid skating with the likes of a Kakko, and Krasvtov would be wonderful line. They will grow together, and the fact that both wings are far ahead of many with their 200 foot game, this could be a dream line for years to come. Worst case, move Kakko to center, Chytle to the wing, and bingo that works. Stay as far away from the big drink of water, and by means give him any deal with any NMC for 5-6 years, that would be idiotic!!!!!!!!!

    • That’s what I said weeks ago. lol It would be a dream line if they all reach their potential, eh?! You could possibly try Kravtsov at center, where he played at the WJC … but to be honest I think we want Chytil at center there — he just needs a strong summer of strength and conditioning and he has to come in with a bit more “attitude”, especially offensively where he needs to be more aggressive/assertive. I want to see him drive to the net with more authority, be harder on the puck (something I already see in Kakko who is relentless). The tools are there though …

      • Krav at center?

        As of now, I think that a vet plays 2C, Names or Strome, unless they get someone from outside the team.

        • Kravs has played center (would prefer Chytil though if he’s up to it), he did it just last December/January for the Russian World Junior Team … and NO Tony, I don’t mean to suggest this line starts out the season as the #2 line … I’m just looking down the road a little, if they all pan out as they should then it could be a hell of a line to put together.

          • Hopefully Chytil plays 2C sooner than later, but I don’t think he’s ready right now.

          • He just needs to play with some offensive aggression, too often he looked somewhat weak and tentative … he needs to drop the shoulder and drive towards the net … he needs a little “early” Nash in him, a little Jagr. He has the body for it, just needs to fine tune it and adjust his attitude a tad. I don’t think the kid knows his potential strength. 😉

          • Chytil looked tentative for a while because he was taking some heavy hits from opponents, lol.

          • It was a long while Tony. He’s a big boy, maybe Dean Youngblood’s brother Kelly is available to teach him how to take care of himself in the big leagues. 😉

  • God prospect camp should be fun this summer … I sure hope the Rangers do a better job making videos of the prospects/games/scrimmages, etc.

    • Already got my rooms booked for Traverse City.


      Plus whatever CHL players they draft this year. Only room for a handful of undrafted forwards.

  • I think Hayes is a decent two way center. He isn’t perfect but few players are perfect. I am not big on accelerating the rebuild so I don’t see the need to sign Hayes, especially not to an expensive long term deal.

    I am not sure that both of the K’ Kids are going be on the team out if camp. They are quite young and haven’t faced NHL level competition before. So it is possible that the Rangers look to fill a hole at center with a veteran. But I’d be fine if they stuck it out for a while with what they have.

    • Yeah, stick it out … thing is with both Kakko and Kravtsov, they’ve been playing against men now for over a year and a half (2 for Kravs). Unless someone comes into camp “wrong” I just don’t see how they don’t make this team — not that 10-20 games in the AHL would kill either one of them, but who’s really going to beat them out? Maybe stick Namestnikov between them, or even Strome for now … absolutely zero reason to grab a veteran from anywhere, we have a few vets that can play center to spare.

    • Kakko was clowning Canada’s D at the worlds, all of whom were NHL defencemen.

      He’ll be fine and starting the season on Broadway.

      • I do not doubt that it is entirely plausible that both of the new K’s stick with the big club. I always leave room for error though!

        It would be a dream come true if they both did, and if Chytil, Howden and Lias could start coming into their own as your 2C, 3C and 4C. That would be awesome. It might take some time, but if they could accomplish that this coming season that would be huge.

  • Ok, Brooks saying the 20th pick, Buch, and Nils for Trouba.

    Even I say NFW to that. Substitute Andersson for Buch and I’m fine with that. No way the Rangers should even consider a trade for Buch or DeAngelo.

      • Bro, the Rangers would be efing stupid to trade Buch now, he’s just starting to figure it out and starting to become a dominating player.

        • Totally Tony…I don’t want to give up Buch……I would do Lias Nils and the 20…you are getting a top pair legit #1 25 yo D man who is big and physical….Trouba forces out Nils on the right side…Joey Keane slides in his place….If Fox is legit….the right side is set for next 8-10 years along with ADA

          • You know DQ wants Troubaman too….If you lose Buch…you replace him with Panarin or Hayes…. or re up Kreiderman….Krav and Kakko prob both gonna be better than Buch….If its Buch…Buch and either Lias or Niles….No 20….I think we know now that its Zib that makes everyone better around him

          • Lias, #20, and Pionk. If I have to give up Nils instead of Pionk to get the deal done, then I do that too.

            Why not give them both Nils and Pionk?

          • Absolutely….We get the far and away best player in the deal… dont know what the 20 will produce and how long he gets here…Nils or Pionk will never be 1/2 a Trouba

    • No, No, No and absolutely No.

      I will say it again, why give up the 20th pick or any assets for that matter for Trouba when he can be had for nothing next year?

      And if someone else gets him in a trade and signs him then I guess he didn’t want to come here that bad anyway.

      Use the 20th to move up and grab another young stud.

      Trading Buch is an impeachable offense with Kravtsov and Individual #2 coming in.

      And Hayes? Just say no

      • Trouba is 25 ….He is getting a 7 or 8 year contract as soon as he is traded. You can use Kreiderman to move up. I like Buch…but does DQ? When Friday night comes and we draft Kakko or Hughes….That is round 1 pick # 6 in last 3 drafts….with another 2 #1’s next year. We have drafted or will have drafted 4 forwards. we are doing good. So if we trade the 20 we will have 8 #1’s over 4 consecutive drafts ….I do that all day long

        • Richter… you called the Fox move, you were spot on about Lundquist denying a trade, so now I’m buying your Trouba call… I didn’t believe it would happen but now I expect “the” trade to be done by June 30th.

          • Thanks pal. I have good friends. 🙂

            I am on the Trouba bandwagon but not “ALL IN” on it.

            I am hoping to God that what Brooks was saying about the package including Buch is HIS take and not the RANGERS’ take. That would be a disaster move. Because while Trouba is a definite upgrade, he’s not worth THAT package. And this coming from me who has advocated for Jacob for 3 years, maybe more.

            The Jets need CENTERS, not WINGERS, so I am hoping against hope that it’s just Brooks spitballing. Andersson or Howden makes much more sense to be included in this deal. I would say Andersson, the 20th pick, Nils, and Pionk (give them both) for Trouba.

            Again, DETROIT is high on Trouba’s list as Jacob went to Michigan. The Wings have several prospects and young players that can make a deal work, as the Jets cannot take high $$ contracts back. So the suggestion that Dekeyser would go back in the trade is way off base.

            The Islanders? I can’t see that, they need scoring more than defense.

            The Devils? Very possible. They want to sign Taylor Hall and adding Hughes and then Trouba would help a lot towards re-signing Hall.

            So, in summary, I want Jacob, but not at the crazy package cost that Brooks suggests. That would be a disaster. I like my package suggestion, it’s fair to the Jets, gives them what they need without taking back $$, and it’s assets that we can afford to give up.

            I have heard that JD will be “prudent” in acquiring players for trade and through free agency, let’s hope so.

            That being said,

            Another interesting development is the Vesey to Buffalo rumors. I find that interesting because the Rangers do not have a lot of NHL ready forwards, even with Krav and Kakko entering the line up right away. So maybe the Rangers know who is coming soon? And could the Rangers be looking at Risto from Buffalo as a “back up” plan to Trouba? Hence the Vesey rumors?

            And then, does Karlsson enter the picture again? If all else fails, getting a D man? I hope not.

            Stay tuned.

          • You can switch out Fogarty for Vesey and have no change in production, add a guy ho can take face offs if your C gets tossed.

          • Shen has a medical billing company I believe, and yes, wants to come to NYC to help her business, supposedly.

          • Never say never.

            For the right package from our end, then yes, but if not, then no.

      • Swarty

        Now that was a thinking man’s post you put out my friend.

        Why the hell do we want to give away the store, and then continue to pay thru the nose for Trouba when the world know’s his wife, being a doctor wants to be here for what I believe to be her residency.

        In any case she wants here, he can push for a trade here, and he has the Jets management by the short hairs. What team will give them whatever they want, and not be able to resign Trouba? There aren’t that many Sathers out there who gave away 2 #1 picks for a guy who would only play for us, MSL. History can’t repeat itself with Jake, wait out the season, then sign him for nothing but money, no that’s too damn simple.

        Even with Jake, it’s going to take time for us to really be world beaters, so why rush it, wait one more season, and then make your move…………………………………..

  • I really dislike Brooks for trying to trade away Buch, Nils and our #20. Gee anything else Brooks? Oh, they’ll want more? Sure, let’s just bend over, take it and like it!

      • Except it’s stupid season out there … I LOVED Trouba when I saw him in Michigan and his first year pro, but the last few years I just get this sense he’s being overrated.

    • Tanto – stupid season it is. I don’t think Brooks has any intel on what the Rangers would do. He’s just spitballing IMO

      • Yeah, it’s always 50/50 with him … just toss a coin in the air and call it as to whether he knows anything. I mean just the day before Friedman said the two main players for Trouba were the rangers and Detroit, now Brooks adds Jersey and Lon Gisland.

  • imo the “don’t throw them to the wolves” argument is why you keep a strome or vlad around. however by giving Hayes a considerable long term deal you are basically locking chytil etc into a winger if he garners a top 6 role.

    it is my opinion that while the 1-2 combo of mika / hayes was passable … that is not a cup worthy tandem let alone playoff worthy considering what other teams around the league are presenting down the middle. in that light. the ship for me on hayes has sailed.

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