The case for a Kevin Hayes reunion with the Rangers this summer
The soon-to-be 27-year-old certainly made an impact with his time in New York, but who is to say that time is finished? After being sent to Winnipeg at the trade deadline last season for a first-rounder and forward Brendan Lemieux, Kevin Hayes has somewhat flown under the radar; tallying 13 points in 20 games for the Jets. Now partaking in the playoffs, Hayes is set to become an unrestricted free agent come July 1, and I wouldn’t cross out a Hayes-New York reunion.
I mean, seeing Hayes come back to New York wouldn’t be the biggest jaw-dropping move this organization has made. Hayes’ career in the Big Apple included a bunch of high, and more noticeably, lots of lows. Those lows including almost vanishing from the ice on some nights, playing lackadaisical on a consistent basis, and not doing what he’s supposed to do; score on a consistently. So why bring him back?
I believe Kevin Hayes is just entering the prime of his career. At 27 when he will need a new deal, Hayes has six full NHL seasons under his belt, which brings plenty of experience. Before being traded at the deadline, Hayes was on a clear pace for a career-setting year is all facets of his game. Through 51 games with the Blueshirts, Hayes had 42 points. That’s two less then all he had in 2017-2018, and only seven points short of his career high, which he set back in 2016-2017.
The playmaking forward brings a big body up front for any team, along with strong puck-handling skills and when he’s on, wicked passing. The seasons Kevin Hayes put together in New York weren’t as successful as his future holds, just basing that off of his stats from year to year.
On a team that will have one of the youngest forward groups in the NHL next year, Kevin Hayes can also provide that veteran leadership. In addition, he can provide depth for the team on the power play and penalty kill. A scenario where I see the Rangers reach out to Hayes would be if the team strikes out with other free agents this offseason. The Panarin-to-Florida talks seemingly increased recently ever since the Panthers signed his former coach Joel Quenneville. So who knows, a reunion might be a possibility, that is if both sides can come to an agreement on what a new deal would look like.
That’s the dealbreaker that will tear the reunion apart, agreeing on a new contract. That is one of the reasons Hayes was shipped off in the first place, with the Rangers assuming they are unable to go where Hayes wants, in dollars terms.
Hayes currently makes a shade over $5 million, and as stated before, setting career numbers this year, he’s obviously getting a raise. An estimated contract he was looking back at the trade deadline had a minimum of $6.5-7 million per year, at around 5-6 years. That term was understandably balked at, and still might be this summer. With a player like Kevin Hayes who just posted over 50 points this year for the first time in his career, many will question the dollars and length of the deal, but how often do teams get a chance at signing a 6’5″, 220-pound centerman?
What’s going to happen with Kevin Hayes this offseason is obviously still unknown, but one thing for sure is that he will have many teams chomping at the bit to hear their pitch.
Featured Image: John Woods/The Canadian Press via AP