PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The will he or won’t he is finally over. Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher officially has his second-line center. The Flyers on Wednesday signed center Kevin Hayes to a seven-year contract extension with a $7.14 million annual average value.
The contract includes a full no-movement clause for the first three seasons and a 12-team no-trade list over the final four seasons.
“My agent and I made a list at the end of the season, the Flyers were one of the teams that was a great fit,” Hayes said. “We wanted to go to a great city and a team that can win.
Hayes is coming off a career season in which he scored 55 points in 71 games split between the New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets.
Now signed, Hayes figures to slot in as the Flyers’ 2-C behind Sean Couturier and ahead of Nolan Patrick. It allows Claude Giroux to move back to left wing, where he believes he’s best suited for at this point in his career, and allows Patrick to develop at the NHL level with less pressure.
“He brings a solid 200-foot game,” Fletcher said of Hayes on June 10. “He has been a very good penalty killer in this league. 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.
“I think he’s a guy who’s familiar with our coach and our coach is familiar with him. That will help. There shouldn’t be any learning curve. He should step in seamlessly. I don’t think there is anything more to say than that he helps us on both ends of the ice.”
The 27-year-old Hayes played four seasons, from 2014 to 2018, under Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault while both were with the Rangers. He registered a career high 25 goals under Vigneault in 2017-18.
During his five-year career, Hayes has averaged 18 goals and 45 points but is coming off a career season. The Flyers hope Hayes can duplicate the success he had last season. Still, Hayes has been a productive NHL player with tremendous size at 6-foot-5 and respectable skating ability for his stature.
At the minimum, Hayes provides the Flyers with center depth that they didn’t have last season.
Hayes will wear No. 13 with the Flyers.
Fletcher acquired Hayes’ negotiating rights from Winnipeg in exchange for a fifth-round pick on June 3, a move that allowed the Flyers to sell themselves to the center before he could reach free agency on July 1. It worked.
By adding Hayes, Justin Braun from the San Jose Sharks and acquiring Matt Niskanen from the Washington Capitals, Fletcher has crossed off three major items on his offseason shopping list. He did so by being aggressive and foregoing draft night and free agency.
With a second-line center locked up and two veteran D-men with a history of playing big minutes, the summer of Fletcher is taking shape. The Flyers still have to sign a backup goalie to pair up Carter Hart and take care of their restricted free agents – notably Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny and Travis Sanheim.
“I think with the moves they’ve made this week shows the fans, team and organization that they want to win now,” Hayes said. “That factored in my decision.”
The Flyers have the No. 11 pick in Friday’s NHL draft and eight total picks this weekend. With Fletcher open to moving his first-round pick, it could be another busy week for the orange and black.
Stay tuned. Perhaps the Flyers are just getting started.