It sounds like the Kevin Hayes era in Chicago is over — before it ever really got started.
Hayes, Chicago’s first-round pick (24th overall) at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, is unlikely to sign with the Blackhawks prior to his Aug. 16 deadline, at which time he’s eligible to become an unrestricted free agent.
Claiming the decision is “nothing against the Blackhawks,” agent Robert Murray said the choice to pass on the Windy City was tough for Hayes.
“This has been a difficult decision for Kevin,” Murray said, per ESPN Chicago. “He’s identified himself with the Blackhawks. He was drafted by them. His brother [Jimmy] played for them.
“But after his college career, he had a chance to step back and look at everything.”
Hayes, 22, is coming off a tremendous final season at Boston College, finishing third in the country in scoring while capturing the 2014 Beanpot MVP. But he was also a fourth-year senior, and one of the biggest players in the country (the BC website lists him at 6-foot-4, 216 pounds.)
As such, there’s varying opinions of how effective he’ll be as an NHLer, which could be why he’s looking somewhere other than Chicago to begin his career. It’s no secret the ‘Hawks are stacked; they’ve traded away a number of good young forwards that couldn’t get a regular chance to play in the top six, like Brandon Pirri and, as Murray mentioned above, Kevin’s older brother Jimmy.
The elder Hayes was sent packing to Florida this season as part of the Kris Versteeg trade and, upon moving to the Panthers, scored 11 goals and 18 points in 53 games before inking a one-year, $950,000 extension on Tuesday.