Hayes Excited to Join Flyers Team That ‘Can Do Some Damage’
In total, the negotiation process lasted just over two weeks. But it felt a lot longer to many people, even to Kevin Hayes.
Hayes was acquired by the Flyers from the Winnipeg Jets for a fifth-round pick on June 3, but was never officially considered a part of the roster until a new deal for the pending free agent was done. It came together on Tuesday night, a seven-year, $50 million deal that locks Hayes into the Flyers long-term future.
"It’s such a prestigious organization," Hayes said in a conference call on Wednesday. "I know pretty well playing against them the last five years. And to be able to join them and join that group and coaching staff. I think Chuck and Paul are putting together a team that can do some damage and ultimately win the Stanley Cup."
"For me and for our group, he checks a lot of boxes we’re looking for," GM Chuck Fletcher said in a conference call on Wednesday. "We like his size. We like his skill. We like his 200-foot game. We like his age. He’s entering the prime of his career. He plays a premium position at center. We think he really rounds out our forward group."
Hayes spent the first four seasons of his NHL career with the New York Rangers. Last season was his fifth, but he was traded to the Jets in a deadline deal. In those first four seasons, Hayes played under head coach Alain Vigneault. The two will be reunited in Philadelphia, something that both Hayes and Fletcher see as a benefit.
"Playing under AV for 4 years, we had a great relationship on and off the ice," Hayes said. "He demands hard work. If you play the correct way, he kind of lets you play freely offensively. That was a huge factor in the decision. Being comfortable with him made the decision a lot easier."
"Alain is comfortable with Kevin as a player. Obviously, Kevin is comfortable with that relationship as well," Fletcher said. "I think that will speed up the learning curve and really allow Kevin to hit the ground running with the Flyers and feel comfortable with his role."
Hayes is not the first new acquisition for the Flyers this offseason, or even this week for that matter. Now that he has officially signed with the Flyers, Hayes joins Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun as new faces for the Orange and Black. With the Flyers adding the veteran leadership of two defensemen, Hayes noted that it spoke volumes about where the organization is heading.
"It just shows that they’re in a win now mentality. Those guys are established players," Hayes said. "Niskanen has a Cup. They’re only going to help the team. I think with the three moves they made in the last couple weeks just shows the team and the organization that they want to win right now. That factored into my decision as well, being able to win."
Hayes can bring the Flyers several things. He obviously slots into the second line, which may help take some of the pressure off 20-year-old Nolan Patrick. In addition, Hayes has experience on special teams at both ends and is ready to take on whatever role is asked of him next season.
"In the past I’ve been on both power play and penalty kill. If that’s going to help the team win, obviously I would love to do it," Hayes said. "I want to help the team as much as I can. Whatever they need me to do is what I will be doing."
Fletcher said that with Hayes signed and two other additions made to the blue line, it remains to be seen if the team is done making any other moves. His focus will shift to the NHL Draft this weekend and signing restricted free agents. But there's always the possibility there is more in the works, as the Flyers continue to try to assemble a better roster.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.