With former Blackhawks first-rounder Kevin Hayes set to hit free agency at midnight, rumors are swirling around which clubs will try to land the former Boston College standout.
One prospective suitor, Calgary, is keeping tight-lipped about its interest.
“I’ve heard that natural assumption for a while,” Flames GM Brad Treliving said, per the Calgary Herald. “I see where people would make the connection. But at this point, we can’t talk about it.”
The “connection” Treliving’s referring to is Johnny Gaudreau and Bill Arnold, Hayes’ BC linemates that are both Flames prospects. The trio lit up collegiate hockey scoreboards last season, with Gaudreau and Hayes finishing one-two in the country in points. Given the amount of time Calgary’s scouts have watched Gaudreau and Arnold, it’s safe to assume they’ve had an extended look at Hayes too.
Calgary’s also likely interested in Hayes because he’s a first-round pick. The Flames have previously explored any and all angles in the quest to add top-end prospects; at the draft, reports suggested Treliving tried to “buy” first-round picks from Phoenix and Carolina by agreeing to take on the contracts of Mike Ribeiro and Cam Ward.
Hayes, 22, has declined to sign in Chicago ever since being drafted. Though he’s never directly said it, the assumption is he was concerned about his ability to crack the Blackhawks’ lineup, a legitimate fear given the number of prospects that couldn’t make the leap in Chicago but found regular NHL minutes elsewhere. One of those prospects happened to be Hayes’ older brother, Jimmy, who the ‘Hawks traded to Florida last season in the Kris Versteeg deal; the elder Hayes proceeded to score a career-high 11 goals in 53 games for the Panthers.