The New York Rangers have plenty of tough decisions to make this offseason. Extending Kevin Hayes should be an easy one.
The approaching offseason is going to be monumental for the New York Rangers, filled wth plenty of difficult decisions. Whether or not to extend Kevin Hayes isn’t one of them.
An unsigned first-round pick (24th overall) by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010, Hayes joined the Rangers before the start of the 2014-15 season.
Now in his fourth NHL season, Hayes has shown us the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to his game. But ultimately, Hayes has shown enough to convince general manager Jeff Gorton to invest in him long term.
Hayes wasn’t considered a shutdown center heading into the season, but that’s exactly what he’s become. He’s done a great job at frustrating the likes of Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, and Steven Stamkos, among others.
Early on in the season, Hayes seemed to be just focused on the defensive side of the game, but now the offensive part of his game has returned. It’s been years since the Rangers had a center who could handle the puck like Hayes.
Plays like that show you the skills he’s got, skills that he’s shown on-and-off during his four seasons on Broadway. Those skills have him sitting with a career-high 23 goals, most coming as the team’s second-line center.
Hayes also has the ability to play the wing, as he is right now with prospects Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil getting time in the middle. That versatility, along with his ability on the penalty kill, makes the decision to extend him an easy one.
The Bad and the Ugly
Hayes does have a tendency to completely disappear at times, failing to record a shot on goal some nights. That wouldn’t be a problem on a team with consistent goal-scoring, but it is for the Rangers, who have nothing but inconsistent goal scorers on the roster.
For Hayes to become that complete, consistent goal-scoring threat the team needs, he must become selfish. Instead of looking for the pass, take the shot. We’ve begun to see him become more assertive and aggressive since the trade deadline.
Can he keep it up for a full season? Hopefully, but it’s far from a guarantee.
Hayes has continued to show that he will put the work in to get better. After his disappointing 36-point season in 2015-16, he has gone on to put up back-to-back 40-point seasons. This year has arguably been his best, considering everything he’s been asked to do.
It shouldn’t even be a question that Hayes has earned a long-term extension with the Rangers. Only 25, Hayes is in the prime of his career and is only going to get better.
Having their top two centers score 50 goals and 89 points, as Hayes and Mika Zibanejad have provided this season, is something the Rangers should want to continue. Zibanejad is already locked up, now it’s time to lock up Hayes.