During Tuesday’s end-of-season media availability, Chicago GM Stan Bowman stated the club’s desire to sign 2010 first-rounder Kevin Hayes.
That the ‘Hawks want to get Hayes under contract is nothing new — it’s just that, for the last four years, the former Boston College standout hasn’t put pen to paper.
“We want to sign him,” Bowman said, per the Chicago Tribune. “I think he just wanted to take his time and decide what’s best for him.”
The concern with Hayes taking this much time is that, on August 15, Chicago’s rights to him expire and Hayes becomes an unrestricted free agent.
There are plenty of angles to this situation, so let’s break them down in point form:
— Being unsigned four years after getting drafted in the first round is odd from a development standpoint. Hayes, taken 24th overall in 2010, is now 22 years old and already behind the curve (to a certain degree) compared to a number of his ’10 draftees. Two forwards taken behind him (Charlie Coyle, Tyler Toffoli) have already emerged as full-time NHLers and Joakim Nordstrom, who the ‘Hawks took 66 spots after Hayes at that same draft, has already made his NHL debut.
— Hayes is still a prospect and had plenty of success at Boston College, finishing third in the country in scoring while winning the 2014 Beanpot MVP. But he was also one of the biggest (6-foot-3, 205 pounds; the BC website lists him at 6-4, 216) and physically mature players in NCAA hockey last year.
— The issue of Hayes cracking Chicago’s lineup could be key. The ‘Hawks have traded away a number of good young prospects that couldn’t get a regular chance to play in the top six forwards, like Brandon Pirri and Jimmy Hayes. If that latter name is familiar, it should be — Jimmy is Kevin’s older brother, and was sent packing to Florida this season as part of the Kris Versteeg trade. Upon moving to the Panthers, Hayes proceeded to score 11 goals and 18 points in 53 games (the 53 games were more than Hayes saw in three years with the Blackhawks.)
— It has to be mentioned that, at least publicly, Hayes and his agent say trading Jimmy has nothing to do with Kevin’s reluctance to sign in Chicago. “There’s no issue, no problem,” Kevin’s agent, Robert Murray, told ESPN Chicago. “It absolutely has nothing to do with Jimmy. Chicago treated Jimmy fine. The trade probably helped Jimmy.”
On Tuesday, Bowman said he hopes to start contract negotiations soon… and earlier, Murray stated that Hayes’ reluctance to ink a deal shouldn’t be seen as a sign he doesn’t want to join the ‘Hawks.
“There’s no decision that he’s not going to sign with Chicago,” Murray explained. “I’ve tried to stress that with Chicago. That’s not the intent — because he hasn’t signed yet, [he won’t sign ever.] That’s not the case.”