Flyers

Flyers acquire Kevin Hayes in trade with Jets

Flyers acquire Kevin Hayes in trade with Jets

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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The Jakub Voracek balance doesn't have to be so complicated

The Jakub Voracek balance doesn't have to be so complicated

VOORHEES, N.J. — Jakub Voracek has the NHL’s seventh-most assists since the 2013-14 season.

His job description as a playmaker comes with a double-edged sword. Throughout his career, he has been tasked with creating offense. To do so, it requires pushing the envelope — taking risks, making bang-bang decisions and playing instinctually.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

When a facilitator like Voracek tries to make plays at a prolific clip, he’s bound to make mistakes. It’s no coincidence the year Voracek set career highs in assists (65) and points (85), he also had his most giveaways (65). That was 2017-18, the Flyers’ best season (42 wins, 98 points) since 2011-12, when the franchise last won a playoff series.

Voracek is in a new system with a new head coach. He and Alain Vigneault are still getting to know each other — from the player’s tendencies to the coach’s style. 

In the third game of the relationship, Voracek was demoted from the first line to the fourth unit during the third period and played his fewest minutes (14:30) since 2015-16. In the fifth game, Voracek climbed from the third line to the second unit alongside Kevin Hayes and Oskar Lindblom after scoring a goal during the first period. He ended up with two goals and an assist during the 6-3 loss to the Oilers, although his final two points came late in the third when the game was out of reach.

“That’s why I made that quick change after the first period where I put him with Haysey and Oskar,” Vigneault said Friday following practice. “I thought his first period was good. He had good vibes, good energy. He was protecting the puck well. For the most part, that for him was a step in the right direction.”

Ultimately, Voracek needs to be himself. The Flyers are better when he’s himself. Over the past five seasons, the Flyers went 59-18-10 when Voracek had a multi-point game. When he’s himself, he’s not overthinking, he’s playing freely — and, yes, he’s playing harder and smarter. Voracek understands there must be a balance between aggressiveness and conservativeness with his playmaking.

And he knows fans might struggle to grasp the intricacies of that balance.

Prior to his three-point effort against Edmonton, Voracek had gone scoreless through the first four games of the season for the first time in his career.

If I play good defense, nobody is going to see that because I don’t produce offensively. If I produce offensively and I still make a couple of mistakes, they’re going to say I’m sh---y defensively. It’s a no-win situation. 

But I think defensively, I was pretty good when you look at those games. But it’s not good enough for me and for the team. I expect more out of myself offensively. And that’s what it takes sometimes, you have to … not take chances, but you have to create more. Obviously with creating more, being on the puck more, there’s a bigger chance you’re going to f--- it up sometimes.

With me right now, I’m 30 years old, I think we’re focusing on helping the team to win the game. If it’s scoring goals, getting an assist, making a good defensive play, focusing on playing good defense — it doesn’t matter as long as we find a way to win.

Confidence often drives Voracek. An important play or big goal can lead to points in bunches from the winger. He has mentioned that word a lot in his time here. Vigneault, Voracek and the Flyers will have to find ways to boost confidence together.

“A lot of it has to do with confidence,” Voracek said. “If you go in, if you don’t produce and if you are careful, it’s hard to gain something. I could still end up with four of five points in the first four games, the chances were there — passing, couple of chances, but it didn’t. If it did, it would be a different story. If you get the goal, if you get an assist, that builds up your confidence little bit.

"Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t good [in those games], either. Especially during the seasons in the past, you can’t have four or five games and end up with one point [and say] your game could be at the top level.

"The funny thing is, when you play well, it’s easy to find the balance because you have confidence.”

As Voracek makes plays, he will also make mistakes.

Is it frustrating when the fans or media only see the mistakes?

“Obviously from upstairs, you see the different perspective of the ice,” Voracek said. “There are different lanes when you have the puck, you see different things. I got here the way I played before and the way I was, I think, doing the right things. But sometimes it’s hard to satisfy everybody, you know what I mean? Especially today, it’s really hard to satisfy everyone. It’s almost impossible in today’s society.”

That’s why Voracek just needs to be himself. There is no perfect balance.

Overthinking in search of it won’t help Voracek or the Flyers.

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Flyers loan Connor Bunnaman to Phantoms; is Nolan Patrick nearing a return?

Flyers loan Connor Bunnaman to Phantoms; is Nolan Patrick nearing a return?

Updated: 2:52 p.m.

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers on Friday loaned forward Connor Bunnaman to AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

The move could mean center Nolan Patrick, who has been week to week with a migraine disorder, is nearing a return.

When Patrick does come back, there will be an odd man out of the lineup. Bunnaman, a 21-year-old rookie, was the likely candidate. Instead of having him sit and watch, the team signed veteran Chris Stewart, who can be the 13th forward, as Bunnaman continues his development with the Phantoms.

"We want the kid to play," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said after practice Friday. "I really think we’ve got a good, young player there. 

"He’s a 21-year-old player that got 19 goals last year in the American League, that’s pretty good. He needs to play, he needs to get some minutes, and then when he comes back here at some point, he’ll be a better player for us."

Stewart will play Saturday against the Stars at the Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m./NBCSP).

With Patrick not quite back yet, the Flyers could call up a forward from Lehigh Valley for some added offense. The candidates are Joel Farabee, German Rubtsov, Mikhail Vorobyev, Nicolas Aube-Kubel or possibly a veteran like Andy Andreoff. The Flyers currently have only 12 forwards and the roster is at 21 players. It can be at a maximum 23.

Patrick did more solo work Friday and took part in practice wearing a non-contact jersey.

"I see Nolan around, I really would tell you that when there’s feedback as far as where he is, I get it from our medical staff," Vigneault said. "I have been told that he’s been making some progress. Today I think was his longest practice, it was almost 30 minutes with us. So I think he’s on the right track."

The 21-year-old missed all of training camp and the preseason.

"We consulted a lot of different people and I think we feel we're in a good place medically," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said Sept. 26. "We'll hope for the best."

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