One question has divided Ranger fans this season. What should they do with Kevin Hayes. Hayes was a restricted free agent this past off-season. Hayes and the Rangers agreed to a one-year deal which will make him an unrestricted free agent after this season. Now, the Rangers have a decision to make on what to do with Hayes.
- They can let Hayes walk in free agency (Whichwould be a massive failure by management).
- They can resign Kevin Hayes
- They can trade Kevin Hayes before the tradedeadline.
Realistically with only B or C being the likely outcomes, let’s look at these possibilities.
Arguments to Resign Kevin Hayes
Resigning Hayes would not come cheap. Should the Rangers choose to resign Hayes, the contract required to keep him would be something along the lines of five or six years at six or six and a half million a season (6 x 6). This contract would also likely include at least a partial no trade clause.
Hayes joined the Rangers at the start of the 2014-2015 season when they were contending for the Stanley Cup. After an impressive rookie season with 45 points under Alain Vigneault, Hayes had a sophomore slump and fell to 36 points. In his third season, Hayes registered a career high in points and followed it up next year with a career high in goals (25).
Last season at the trade deadline, J.T. Miller was traded along with Ryan McDonagh. Many fans believed that there would not be enough room in the cap to sign both to long term deals and that the Rangers had to likely pick and choose. It appeared last year that the Blueshirts chose Hayes, but they could only settle on a one-year deal.
This season, Hayes is having a career year. The Boston native has played in all 35 games and has 30 points (10G, 20A). He is currently on a seven-game point streak and is tied for the team lead in points. He is also on pace for around 60-70 points on the season which would be the most points he ever registered. Hayes has also been a more physical player as he is on pace for about 75 hits which would also be a new career high (59).
Hayes is receiving more ice time than ever before (19:17 TOI) and he is deserving of it. Hayes is proving he is a responsible player as he currently possesses more takeaways than giveaways and he is a plus 10. For comparison, Mika Zibanejad,the top center on the team has the same amount of points but is a minus 12.While plus minus isn’t the best stat to compare players, good things are happening when Kevin Hayes is on the ice.
The numbers this year are certainly worth six million a season, but the question is can he repeat this over the upcoming seasons.
– Hayes will be 27-years old by the start of next season and a six-year contract would keep him a Ranger through his prime till he is 33.
– Hayes is currently on pace forcareer highs in:
–Time on ice
–Power Play Points
- Hayes has also proven to be a durable player throughout his career having played in at least 76 games every season.
- Hayes also has playoff experience which could help future Rangers. However, Hayes has just 10 points in 34 games, but 19 playoff games came during his rookie season
- There is a reason for those concerned that he can’t consistently have this type of season. Hayes has never had more than 50 points in a season thus far.
- Keeping Hayes would all but lock up a protected spot come the 2021-2022 season when Seattle joins the league during the expansion draft.
- Resigning Hayes would continue the current logjam the Rangers have at center (More later)
- Long-term contracts for UFA’s have a history of not working out as teams have hoped or are no longer worth the contract they were given
- Milan Lucic (7 x 6)
- Kyle Okposo (7 x 6)
- Ryan Callahan (6 x 5.8)
- Dan Girardi (6 x 5.5)
The option of trading Kevin Hayes
The other option for the Rangers should they choose not resign Hayes, would be to trade him by the deadline. Hayes could serve as a rental to a team looking to improve their chances at winning the Stanley Cup. There is also a chance that a trading partner would want Hayes after the season which could affect the trade (e.g. Evander Kane in San Jose).
Before we look at what could be a return for Hayes, let’s look at players of his caliber that were traded at last year’s trade deadline and other players who could be traded at this deadline.
Notable Asset Returns from 2017-2018 Trade Deadline
Rick Nash – Ryan Spooner, Ryan Lindgren, BOS 2018 first-round pick
Stats before traded – 18G, 10A,60GP
Ryan Hartman – NSH 2018 first-round pick
Stats before traded – 8G, 17A, 57GP
Paul Stastny – WPG 2018 first-round pick
Stats before traded – 12G, 28A, 63GP
Evander Kane – SJS 2019 first-round pick, 2019 Conditional fourth-round pick
Stats before traded – 20G, 20A, 61GP
Tomas Tatar – VGK 2018 first-round pick, 2019 second-round pick, 2021 third-round pick
Stats before traded – 16G, 12A, 62GP
Kevin Hayes current stat line is: 10G, 20A, 35GP.
Besides Tatar, the rest of the players were simply rental deals as all were acquired on the last year of their contract (Note: Kane and Hartman each resigned with their respective teams). Hayes is also the second youngest on this list. Hayes is young, he is on track to have more points than any of the other players. Whether Hayes is simply a rental for a team or he is signed long-term after the season, Hayes has some serious trade value.
What can the Rangers get for Hayes?
Predicting the return of a player is almost impossible. However, based off information that teams were willing to pay in the past for similar types of players and off of competition, we can make some predictions.
If Hayes were traded, the Rangers should expect to get somewhere between 2-4 assets. Based off of the price teams were willing to pay at least years deadline (obviously this can fluctuate since it’s a new year), the Rangers should be able to acquire something in the range of a first-round pick, a prospect and a mid-round pick. This can also be something in the range of a second or third round pick with an A-level prospect.
Potential trade destinations
Calgary Flames – It was reported Calgary was interested in Hayes at the draft last year but nothing ever materialized. Calgary currently sits at first in the Pacific Division and could look to make a playoff run. At center, the flames have Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund and Mark Jankowski as their three centers. Adding Hayes would be a big improvement to that core. In addition, acquiring Hayes would give the Flames an interesting option. They could keep Gaudreau and Monahan together as both are averaging over a point a game. Or they could pair Gaudreau with Kevin Hayes who are best of friends. Hayes and Gaudreau were linemates at Boston College and were one of the top lines in the country.
In June 2017, Calgary gave up their 2018 first-round pick for Travis Hamonic. Would Calgary be willing to trade their draft pick two years in a row? Maybe. The Flames also have three young defensemen and could be willing to move one. Rasmus Andersson, Oliver Kylington and Juuso Valimaki have all made the NHL team and have each played at least 13 games. The Rangers may be able to lure one of these defenders plus a draft pick. But if Calgary is willing to move their first, they would likely rather do that then move a roster player.
Trade Prediction: CAL trades a 2019 first-round pick, a prospect not currently playing for the Flames and a third-round pick.
Colorado Avalanche – Sportsnet reporter Elliotte Friedman has reported the Avalanche are a team that are “heavily interested” in acquiring the services of Kevin Hayes. Hayes would be an ideal candidate for Colorado, should they be able to make a deal work. Acquiring Hayes would offer some much-needed depth behind Nathan MacKinnon. It is no secret the Avalanche rely on their top line to put the puck in the net consistently. Mikko Rantanen is currently leading the NHL with 59 points and MacKinnon is third with 56 points. The other part of that line, Gabriel Landeskog, is 15th in the league with 45 points.
Avalanche coach, Jared Bednar,would be crazy to break up their dominant first line, so Hayes would likely play the second line center. Having a player on pace for 60-70 points playing behind MacKinnon would take pressure off the top line and it would force opposing teams to have to worry about the Avalanche’s second line, especially come playoff time. They currently sit third in the central division with a five-point cushion over the Dallas Stars. Hayes would likely play the second line with Alexander Kerfoot and JT Compher.
With the Avalanche most likely unwilling to trade young forwards JT Compher and Tyson Jost, the deal would likely acquire a combination of picks and prospects. They also would probably want to hold onto prospects Martin Kaut (2018 first-round pick) and Cale Makar(Fourth overall in 2017 entry draft).
However, Colorado do have some interesting pieces that were acquired from the Matt Duchene three-team trade early last season. Boston University forward Shane Bowers and 22-year-old Vladislav Kamenev could be trading chips. With Colorado’s core of forwards likely set for the foreseeable future (Rantanen, MacKinnon, Landeskog, Compher, Jost, Kerfoot, Hayes, Kaut and Hayes if acquired), Bowers and Kamenev may never be given the chance to play a major role with Avalanche.
Bowers was a first-round pick in 2017 by Ottawa. Bowers had 32 points in 40 games at BU and he is playing for Team Canada at the World Juniors.
Kamenev was a second-round pick in 2014 and he has had a rough time with injuries in his career. After being poised to make an impact at the NHL level after some very productive years in the AHL, he broke his arm in his first game with Colorado last season. After playing 23 games this season with Colorado, he suffered what appears to be a season ending shoulder injury.
The last major piece acquired in the Duchene trade was Ottawa’s first round pick this season. Ottawa is currently last in the Atlantic Division and that pick will likely be a high lottery pick. With having this pick, Colorado may be more willing to move their own pick.
With Kamenev’s durability being aconcern, the Rangers may look to steer away from him or acquire him cheap andnot as the main piece in a trade.
Trade prediction – COL trades Shane Bowers and COL 2019 first-round pick and a mid-round draft pick OR COL trades Shane Bowers, Vladislav Kamenev, and a second-round pick.
Winnipeg Jets – The Jets are a contender and have very few holes in their lineup. The biggest need is for a second linecenter behind Mark Scheifele. Last year, the Jets traded for Paul Stastny, but couldn’t managed to resign him as he walked in free agency. The Jets never replaced Stastny and they have been linked to the premier center available, Kevin Hayes.
With the Jets being a contender, they are likely unwilling to move any roster players. Last year, they traded a conditional first-round pick, a conditional fourth-round pick and prospect Erik Foley.
Hayes could strictly be a rental for Winnipeg due to very tight cap restraints, but that wouldn’t stop the Rangers from commending a greater value for Hayes then the Blues did for Stastny. With Hayes linked to so many teams, the Jets will feel more pressure than the little interest other teams had in Stastny.
To start, Winnipeg likely trades their 2019 first-round pick. This would be a late pick as many expect the Jets to make it to the Western Conference Finals at least. The Jets could also move a second-round pick from 2020 because trading a second-round pick in 2019 would leave the Jets with no picks in the first three rounds.
The last part of the deal would be a prospect. The Jets have a few pieces that could interest the Rangers. Forward prospects Kristian Vesalainen and Mason Appleton (Appleton made his Jets debut December first but likely won’t be given a huge role). On defense, Winnipeg have Sami Niku who put up 54 points in 76 games in the AHL. He also was named to the AHL all-rookie team.
However, one prospect that may spark the Rangers interest is 19-year-old Dylan Samberg. Samberg is a 6’3, left handed defender from Minnesota. He played a top four role with the University of Minnesota-Deluth and he helped the team to a national championship in his freshman year. Samberg is currently playing for Team USA at the World Juniors and he is paired with Rangers prospect K’Andre Miller (6’4). Samberg is strong on the puck and is a force in one-on-one battles for the puck. Samberg is also a strong skater and is known for his defensive ability in his own zone. Samberg is still 2-3 years away from being ready for the NHL. If Samberg and Miller have a strong tournament, Samberg could be a target of the Rangers.
Trade Prediction – WPG trades 2019 first-round pick, 2020 conditional third-round pick (Could turn into a second) and Dylan Samberg.
While these three teams are interested in Hayes so are many other teams. The Boston Bruins are another team heavily linked with Kevin Hayes, who would return home to Boston. Any other contender could try and make a move including the Vegas Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks. There is no telling who or what the Rangers could get for Kevin Hayes. He could also be traded for an NHL roster player.
Opinion: What should the Rangers do?
With all the trade talk, is trading Hayes the best option for the Rangers? To me,this question has a very simple answer. With the log jam the Rangers have at center, how much does management honestly believe in Lias Andersson, FilipChytil and Brett Howden. With the Blueshirts having Mika Zibanejad for three more years after this season, the Blueshirts need two out of three of the young centers to round out the top nine. While Chytil and Andersson have played wing at stretches this season, they were drafted and are natural centers. One could very easily move to the wing on a permanent basis, but for the sake of the argument, the Rangers have five centers in Zibanejad, Hayes, Chytil, Andersson and Howden. If management believes the three young centers will pan out, then it is a no-brainer to trade Hayes. The assets that can be acquire for Hayes are too valuable to pass up on.
I believe that the young three centers are poised to be NHL caliber players and that trading Hayes is the way to go. Management have to be sure they are getting good value for Hayes. Hayes is one of my favorite players and I think Hayes is worth the contract he wants now, but I do have concerns about his consistency and his production in the future. I do not want the Rangers getting stuck with another bad contract.
But if management isn’t as confident as they once were in these players, then resigning Hayes is a must. Or if Chytil moves to the wing, then resigning Hayes would mean the Blueshirts would only need one of Andersson or Howden to pan out to fill out the top nine. And if they all panned out, then the Blueshirts could explore trade options in the future and likely before Seattle enters the league.
It’s a tough decision but an important one that management need to get right to give the Rangers the best chance at being a contender once again in the near future.