Trade: Rangers’ sell-off continues as Kevin Hayes heads to Jets

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Kevin Hayes wanted to stay, but the state of the New York Rangers prevented that from being a reality as the trade deadline approached.

After sitting out the Rangers’ two games over the weekend, Hayes is now on the move to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for a lottery-protected 2019 first-round pick (becomes a 2020 first if in the top three), a conditional 2022 pick (fourth-rounder if Winnipeg wins the Stanley Cup) and forward Brendan Lemieux.

“I pretty much knew I was being traded about a week ago. When I stopped playing games, it was pretty clear,” Hayes told TSN Monday morning.

The 26-year-old Hayes has 14 goals and 42 points in 51 games this season. He can become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Hayes and the Rangers did have contract talks during the season, but clearly negotiations went nowhere. Term was a big issue, and maybe a reunion can be explored in the summer.

[Winners and losers of the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline]

“It definitely felt like every hour I was going somewhere new,” Hayes said. “I probably talked to my agent 25 times in the past two days and it was somewhere new every time. Glad to finally have it over with and excited to be going to an unreal team like Winnipeg.”

Hayes is cousins with former NHLer Keith Tkachuk, so that explains this 2014 Instagram post of a younger Hayes in a Jets 1.0 jersey.

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#tbt to the best jerseys in the league. #Winnipeg

A post shared by Kevin Hayes (@kphayes12) on

The Jets get some help up front. As they look to get Patrik Laine going offensively, Hayes can be an addition to the second line that aids in that department. He’s been a strong driver of possession, and a play-maker with 28 assists, something that Winnipeg could use at the moment to get out of their funk.

“I don’t want to say exactly where I’m going to play, but I’m going to play with some good wingers who can score some goals,” Hayes said on a conference call with reporters. “I’m a pass first type of player and I’m excited to play with some goal scorers.”

This is now two years in a row Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has gone out and grabbed a rental forward following the Paul Stastny acquisition at last season’s deadline. Now with Hayes in the fold, they are more than likely out on Mark Stone of the Ottawa Senators considering the price that he will probably fetch.

Hayes moves on two days after Mats Zuccarello was dealt to the Dallas Stars. This trade gives New York two first-round picks in the upcoming draft and potentially four depending on conditions on selections acquired in the Zuccarello deal and last year’s Ryan McDonagh/J.T. Miller trade.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.