General manager Chuck Fletcher wanted to add more proven talent to the Flyers this offseason.
It didn't take him long to start.
The Flyers on Monday night acquired forward Kevin Hayes from the Jets in exchange for a 2019 fifth-round pick.
In 71 games this season, Hayes, 27, scored 19 goals and 55 points between time with the Rangers and Jets. In 2017-18, he scored 25 goals.
He is set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, so the Flyers will obviously have to sign him.
"By gaining the rights to Kevin at this time, it provides us with an opportunity to negotiate with him prior to July 1 when he is due to become an unrestricted free agent," Fletcher said in a release by the team.
Hayes played under Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault with the Rangers from 2014-18. The attraction of playing for his former coach should only help with negotiations. The Flyers also have cap space, one of many aspects Vigneault liked about the club when he was hired in mid-April.
"In today's game, you've got to make sure the environment that you're creating is — I don't want to say pro-player, but it can incite players to choose Philly as a destination because they'll get the best development, they'll get the best coaching whether it be strength, psychological coaches, etc.," Vigneault said at his introduction. "You need total commitment from ownership and there's no doubt that we have that here."
The Flyers will hope that is all appealing to Hayes.
The 2010 first-round pick is 6-foot-5, 216 pounds and can play down the middle or the wing. His 25 goals last season were a career high and his 55 points this season were also a personal best. In each of his five seasons with the Rangers, Hayes scored 14 or more goals. Rebuilding New York sent him to Winnipeg at the NHL trade deadline. With the Jets, he put up 13 points in 20 games and scored a pair of goals in six playoff contests.
Hayes can play on the penalty kill and on the power play. In 2017-18, when he netted his career high in goals, he was second on the Rangers in shorthanded ice time. For his career, he is a plus-28. He's known as a smart and responsible player, traits the Flyers want more of within their forwards. The Flyers had a minus-37 goal differential this season and allowed the NHL's third-most goals per game at 3.41, missing the playoffs for the fourth time in the last seven seasons.
"I think we score, but maybe finding another experienced guy that can help with that mindset — playing the right way, that could contribute both ways," Fletcher said in April after the Flyers' season ended.
"The best teams in the league defensively, often don't defend. They're playing in the offensive zone. They have the puck. We can do a better job with puck support, holding onto the puck, being above the puck in the offensive zone, and not giving easy transitions to the other team."
Hayes would also help the Flyers' depth down the middle. It's uncertain if 20-year-old Nolan Patrick is ready to be the team's second-line center. Hayes could relieve some pressure off of Patrick's shoulders as the 2017 second overall pick continues to develop.
The Flyers now have nine picks in the June 21-22 entry draft. This season, Hayes was on a one-year, $5.175 million deal. If the Flyers can sign him and lose only a fifth-round pick in the process, it would be an impressive start to Fletcher's first offseason in charge.
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