The Flyers' interest level in Kevin Hayes was especially evident by what the club did to secure his services. The Flyers traded for Hayes' rights, brought him in to tour the team's facilities and meet the staff, and offered him a seven-year, $50 million contract all over the span of 17 days.
"For me and for our group," general manager Chuck Fletcher said June 19, "he checks a lot of boxes we were looking for."
The Flyers like his 6-foot-5, 216-pound frame, his tough-to-play-against ability down the middle, and his prime years ahead at the age of 27.
There are two things Hayes does particularly well that the Flyers have not over the past five seasons: kill penalties and score at even strength.
Since 2014-15, the Flyers' penalty-kill percentage is 78.4. Only one NHL team sports a worst mark during that stretch: the Oilers at 78.0.
Since 2016-17, Hayes was second on the Rangers in shorthanded ice time. Over that period, he has won just three fewer penalty-kill faceoffs than Sean Couturier and owns the fifth-most shorthanded points (12) among all NHL players, behind only Brad Marchand (16), Michael Grabner (15), Patrice Bergeron (13) and Viktor Arvidsson (13). Hayes has six shorthanded goals in his five-year career, while no current Flyer has more than two since 2014-15.
"We feel we are acquiring a quality offensive contributor, but he is also a player that has excelled on the penalty kill," Fletcher said. "He has a quality 200-foot game, he has a good stick defensively and he reads the play well."
Couturier has done yeoman's work on the Flyers' PK and the unit has still struggled. Throw Hayes into the picture and the Flyers now have another penalty-killer the caliber of Couturier.
"If you look at our club last year, we were just thin at times," Fletcher said. "We've asked a lot out of Sean Couturier the last couple years. I think with adding Kevin and the continued maturation of Nolan Patrick, we should have many more options for our coaching staff and our team to get better matchups."
On the topic of matchups, the Flyers have scored 1.75 goals per game at 5-on-5 since 2014-15, the seventh fewest in the NHL. Over that time, the Flyers' 5-on-5 goal differential is minus-36. Oftentimes (not as much last season), the Flyers have been too reliant on the power play and not nearly consistent enough at 5-on-5, in both ends of the ice.
Hayes can help. He has done a lot of his damage at even strength with 72 such goals, more than guys like Adam Henrique (71 — $5.825 million AAV), Evgeny Kuznetsov (70 — $7.8 million AAV) and Ryan O'Reilly (67 — $7.5 million AAV) since 2014-15. Hayes' 179 even-strength points are more than guys like Nazem Kadri (173), Tomas Hertl (172), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (172) and Anders Lee (170) over the past five seasons.
"In the past, I've been on both power play and penalty kill," Hayes said when he signed with the Flyers. "If that's going to help the team win, obviously I would love to do it. I want to help the team as much as I can. Whatever they need me to do is what I will be doing."
The Flyers will need Hayes to do a lot. After all, they did a lot to get him because of that.
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