The Philadelphia Flyers took a calculated gamble, trading a late-round pick for the rights to negotiate with center Kevin Hayes. It appears that move is now paying off, for both team and player.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported Tuesday night that Hayes, a pending unrestricted free agent, are closing in on a seven-year, $50 million deal ($7.14 million annual average value), taking one more big name free agent off the board long before the free agency window opens on July 1.
The Flyers put the official stamp on the deal on Wednesday.
“We are very happy to sign Kevin to a long-term contract,” Fletcher said in a release by the team. “He plays a smart, two-way game and is just entering the prime of his career. Kevin will add size and skill to our lineup.”
A day normally referred to as a ‘frenzy’ will be merely a whimper at the pace big names are being erased off the list.
The Flyers really wanted their guy, so much so that they’re paying a guy who’s only broken the 20-goal mark once and has only surpassed 50 points once, too — this year, with 55 points in 71 games with the New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets.
But teams will pay big money for a top-six center who is large in stature and has a knack for using that frame to drive to the net. At 6-foot-5 and 216 pounds, Hayes is a formidable figure on the ice and at 27, is coming into the prime of his career.
Hayes becomes the 18th highest paid center in the NHL, making more than Patrice Bergeron in Boston, Nathan MacKinnon in Colorado and Mark Scheifele in Winnipeg — all three players who are top-line centers on their respective teams and with significantly more success in the production department.
CapFriendly has the nearest comparable to Hayes’ contract listed as Ryan O'Reilly of the St. Louis Blues, who won the Conn Smythe a few nights ago.
The Flyers acquired the rights to court Hayes last week when they sent a 2019 fifth-round pick to the Jets, who brought Hayes in from the Rangers at the trade deadline.
Hayes didn’t impress in Winnipeg, but came into a team that was on a downward trajectory and couldn’t rectify it himself.
Initially, it was reported that Philly wasn’t No. 1 on Hayes’ list. We can suppose that changed as the AAV rose in negotiations.
A couple thoughts:
- Matt Duchene must be licking his chops at this point. Duchene, a UFA himself, is going to be signing T-Pain’s ‘I’m so Paid’ for years to come.
- It would appear the dollar figure for William Karlsson would come in around this mark.
- The Flyers are doing big things this offseason.
Earlier on Tuesday, they added defenseman Justin Braun from the San Jose Sharks, taking advantage of a team that needed to shed some salary.
The Hayes signing just highlights further the aggressive off-season by Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher is undertaking, vastly different than Ron Hextall’s slow-and-steady plan.
Over the last week, they added Matt Niskanen from the Washington Capitals by shipping Radko Gudas the other way and bought out Andrew MacDonald‘s contract.
And they still have nearly $23 million to work with and restricted free agents in Scott Laughton, Travis Konecny, Travis Sanheim and Ivan Provorov they still need to sign.
The Flyers are that darkhorse team for next year. They’ve appeared to find a capable starter in Carter Hart, have re-tooled their blue line and still have names such as Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek to go along with the Hayes addition.
Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck.