The New Jersey Devils have made dramatic moves to improve their forward group over the last few years, but even with Taylor Hall, Marcus Johansson, and Kyle Palmieri in the mix, there’s still plenty of room for improvement.
With that and the Devils’ recent struggles in mind, it only makes sense for GM Ray Shero to be open-minded to “reclamation projects.”
Perhaps that will be the case with towering forward Jimmy Hayes, then. The Devils announced that the winger has been invited to training camp on a PTO.
Look, there’s no doubt that Hayes has frequently struggled to make a difference at the NHL level. Not that long ago, he broke a 35-game pointless streak.
Still, it’s probably fair to give him an incomplete grade instead of a failing mark from 2016-17. After all, there are only so many players who can produce much offense when they’re receiving 9:14 TOI per game.
Hayes went from averaging 15:09 per contest in his best season (2014-15, when he scored 19 goals for Florida) to 13:50 TOI with Boston in 2015-16 and then that new low last season.
So, no doubt about it, Hayes’ stock couldn’t get much lower.
We’ve seen fringe guys become valuable assets after getting clean slates, including with bigger forwards. Zack Kassian resurrected his career following some significant struggles, just to name a recent example.
The Devils could use another NHL-caliber forward, particularly with valuable center Travis Zajac slated to miss a chunk of 2017-18. Maybe Hayes can be part of the solution.