The Rangers Should Keep Kevin Hayes; Here’s Why …

Hayes v Draisaitl (Getty Images)

On February eighth of last season, Ranger’s management sent out a letter to the fans explaining the direction that they would be taking the team. Since then, fans like myself have debated several key questions: Should Mats Zuccarello be traded? Were the Rangers correct in drafting Lias Andersson? However, the answer to one question, in particular, may have the greatest impact on the Rangers team going forward. Should the Rangers re-sign Kevin Hayes, or trade him?

Kevin Hayes was drafted twenty-fourth overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks and opted to play four years in college instead of making the jump to the NHL. After playing four years at Boston College, where he posted decent numbers through his first three years before posting a whopping 65 points in 40 games during his senior year, he decided to decline the Chicago Blackhawks’ contract offer and subsequently became a free-agent. Many teams had their eye on Hayes, but ultimately he decided to sign with the Rangers.

Kevin Hayes was productive out of the gate, scoring 45 points in his rookie season and then going on to score 129 points over the next three seasons for the Rangers. When looking at Kevin Hayes’ stats, one interesting point to note is that Kevin Hayes has never finished a season in the minus category of the +/- statistic, meaning that he is on the ice when the Rangers score, more than he is on the ice when the opposition scores.

This season Kevin Hayes is a plus 9, which is fantastic considering that the Rangers are a -17 in the goal differential category. Also, Kevin Hayes’ CF% (Corsi for) this season is approximately 51%, while the Rangers as a whole have a team CF% at around 45%. While Corsi technically is a measure for shot attempt differential while at even strength play, by proxy, it also measures offensive zone possession. This can be confusing, but to put it simply, a player with a CF% higher than that of his team is more dominant in the offensive zone than a player with a CF% lower than his team’s average.

Currently, Kevin Hayes has 10 goals, 23 assists, and is on pace for 73 points, which would be his career high. Hayes is also riding a 9 game point scoring streak in which he has amassed 16 points. This is due in part to David Quinn and his utilization of Kevin Hayes. Last season, coach Alain Vigneault used Kevin Hayes more defensively, which is fine to an extent.

Kevin Hayes is an extremely flexible player and has great two-way abilities. Kevin Hayes should be used in defensive situations. His frame, long-reach, and skating abilities for a player of his size make it a nightmare for an opposing player to possess the puck. However, if Kevin Hayes is used defensively, we miss an opportunity to see a whole other side to his game. I believe that coach David Quinn has found the happy balance between using Kevin Hayes both offensively, and defensively.

Last season, under Alain Vigneault, Kevin Hayes averaged 17:21 minutes of time per game. Of the 17:21 minutes, 2:15 of those were spent on the penalty kill, and 1:07 of those minutes were spent on the powerplay. This season, Kevin Hayes has averaged 19:22 minutes of ice-time. Of those 19:22 minutes, 2:01 minutes were spent killing penalties, and 2:20 minutes, Hayes spent on the power play. It is not difficult to see why Hayes is producing more this season.

Stats are great, and without a doubt correlate with a player’s performance. However, there are certain aspects of a player’s game that cannot be shown by statistics. This season, Kevin Hayes has absolutely dominated in the offensive zone, and his CF% supports that (hence the reason I brought it up). There are few players in the NHL who have the ability to control the puck like Kevin Hayes can.

Check out some of these clips of Kevin Hayes from this season. Statistics cannot express how good Kevin Hayes is with the puck.

Kevin Hayes in entering the prime of his career and as the season progresses, the Rangers will have to narrow in on a decision. Re-sign Kevin Hayes, or trade him. Last offseason, the Rangers were at a crossroads with what to do with Kevin Hayes.

They opted to re-sign him for one year at 5.175 million. In February, the Rangers traded J.T. Miller to the Lightning. Miller is very similar to Hayes as they are both around 25 years old, they were both high draft picks, they are both large playmaking centermen, and are both making the same amount of money.

Why did the Rangers decide to trade Miller and not Hayes? At that time, they would have both commanded similar trade value, and they both had expiring contracts. The Rangers were afraid to commit to J.T. Miller and did not want to pay him the type of money that Tampa did. Now, the Rangers find themselves in a similar situation.

I believe that no matter what, the Rangers are not going to recoup any assets close to what Kevin Hayes is worth, no matter how hard they try. Yes, the Rangers are in a rebuild, but at 26 years old, Kevin Hayes can be productive for many years to come. Kevin Hayes is the type of player you build around, and while I do understand that in order to build around a player, you need assets, the Rangers now have many quality prospects in our system along with a plethora of draft picks.

I also understand that the Rangers recently signed Mika Zibanejad long-term, and if we opt to re-sign Kevin Hayes as well, we will easily have over eleven million tied up in two centers. But don’t all competitive teams have multiple great centers? Pittsburgh won Stanley Cups with Crosby, Malkin, and Guentzel. Washington won with Backstrom and Kuznetsov.

If we want to be competitive in the future, we need to have more than one good centerman, even if it means sacrificing cap space. Plus, if we truly are in rebuild mode, the majority of our team should be on entry-level contracts, and cap-space should not be an issue for a couple of seasons.

So yes, I do believe that the Rangers should re-sign Kevin Hayes. What do you think? Should the Rangers re-sign Kevin Hayes? Vote below!

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I am a New York Rangers journalist, avid Blueshirt fan, and a long-time hockey player born and raised in... More about Noah Weiss

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