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Report: Flyers, Kevin Hayes closing in on 7-year contract

Report: Flyers, Kevin Hayes closing in on 7-year contract

It appears Kevin Hayes is nearing a payday and Chuck Fletcher is close to getting his guy.

Hayes and the Flyers are closing in on a seven-year, $50 million contract, according to a report Tuesday night by TSN's Bob McKenzie. That would be an average of $7.14 million per season.

Per Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Fletcher said Tuesday night: "We are still working on things. I'm hopeful we'll get it done."

If it gets done under the reported terms, it's a hefty contract.

It shows you how much the Flyers' general manager wants Hayes, who projects to be the team's second-line center. For some context, Sean Couturier is making $4.3 million a season. James van Riemsdyk, a two-time 30-goal scorer, is making $7 million a season.

But when you have $30 million in cap space and you're looking to get better significantly and quickly, you make a splash and this would qualify as one.

Hayes, a 6-foot-5, 216-pound forward, is 27 years old, scored a career-high 25 goals in 2017-18 and a career-best 55 points this past season. That doesn't exactly meet or warrant the reported terms of the contract, but the Flyers are clearly projecting and believe his prime years are ahead. They also wanted to do their best in preventing Hayes from testing the free-agent market, starting June 23.

The Flyers traded for his rights on June 3, sending a 2019 fifth-round pick to the Jets. Without a deal, Hayes will become an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

Hayes, who played under Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault from 2014-18 in New York, is a smart and responsible two-way forward. The Flyers want more of those qualities after putting up a minus-37 goal differential and allowing the NHL's third-most goals per game at 3.41 in 2018-19.

"There are not a lot of centermen in the marketplace and Kevin is a quality hockey player," Fletcher said last week. "He plays a strong 200-foot game. He's a guy who can play both specialty teams. He's familiar with our coach and our coach is familiar with him. So, we just thought it made sense to try to get ahead of it.

"He plays well away from the puck. He understands the game. He has hockey sense. He can contribute offensively. We gave up 281 goals last year, we have to get better. We have to have more players that play a strong 200-foot game. I'd like to improve the penalty kill. Having depth through the middle of the ice will make us harder to play against."

Fletcher has been busy, reshaping the Flyers' defense. Now it's time to lock up Hayes, his strategy all along.

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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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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: More upsets in store on Day 3?

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: More upsets in store on Day 3?

The Lightning and Jets will look to regain their footing on home ice Friday night after dropping their respective Game 1s.

NHL-best Tampa Bay blew a 3-0 lead in Game 1 as the Blue Jackets stormed back for a 4-3 win, while Winnipeg surrendered a pair of third-period goals to the Blues, who picked up a 2-1 Game 1 win.

Game 2s are series-shifting matchups. There are four Friday night.

Below is the full schedule for Day 3 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can watch the entire playoffs on the networks of NBC. 

Columbus Blue Jackets at Tampa Bay Lightning (1-0 CBJ)
Game 2, Eastern Conference first round
7:00 p.m. ET | TV: CNBC | Live stream here

Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Islanders (1-0 NYI)
Game 2, Eastern Conference first round
7:30 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here

St. Louis Blues at Winnipeg Jets (1-0 STL)
Game 2, Western Conference first round
9:30 p.m. ET | TV: CNBC | Live stream here

Vegas Golden Knights at San Jose Sharks (1-0 SJS)
Game 2, Western Conference first round
10:30 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here