The New York Rangers and Kevin Hayes have agreed to a one-year contract which inevitably will lead to the center being traded.
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) July 30, 2018
With the new contract now official, Hayes and the Rangers will not be able to sign a contract extension until January (should both sides get to that stage of the game). At the conclusion of this contract, Hayes will become an unrestricted free agent.
This is a terrible decision by the organization, as the topic of conversation every day will certainly be whether the Rangers will trade Hayes by the February trade deadline. It has been apparent that general manager Jeff Gorton was not comfortable signing Hayes to a long-term deal.
The Rangers will now have to decide on what to do with two key components of their team. Along with Hayes’s UFA status at season’s end, Mats Zuccarello will also be a UFA. The Rangers have found a way to get off the rebuild topic, and this conversation is not much better.
Larry Brooks of the New York Post had reported that the gap between the organization and Hayes’s camp was far apart and that they may settle on a one-year deal instead of a long-term contract.
This will have devastating consequences for a team looking to pick itself up after a season without making the playoffs.
Hayes was looking for a deal between $5.5 million and $6 million per for five or six years. This is within the same range as Adam Henrique, who is two years older than Hayes, recently signed a five-year extension with the Anaheim Ducks worth $5.85 million per year that kicks in next season.
With a logjam at center, maybe this is the direction the Rangers are willing to go to. The question is why? Kevin Hayes is coming off a career year in goals scored (25), even-strength goals (17), power-play goals (six), short-handed goals (two), and had his best face-off winning percentage (50.5) in his four years as a Blueshirt. He has done everything the organization has asked of him as the team’s number two center behind Mika Zibanejad.
Hayes became the number two center when the team traded Derek Stepan in June of 2017. The center recognized how important Stepan was to the team and to Hayes personally. Hayes spoke about the loss of Stepan and how he felt he played last season on an individual level to Rick Carpiniello of The Athletic.
“We lost a pretty big piece of our team over the (previous) summer in Derek Stepan, and he was a guy I kind of looked up to,” Hayes said. “He helped me throughout my first three years here. I thought that I could maybe become a defensive center that could produce. I thought I did pretty well. Obviously, I can improve.”
General manager Jeff Gorton and the organization are putting their backs against the wall before the team has even opened training camp. The team has yet to reach a deal with RFA Ryan Spooner who has an arbitration hearing scheduled for Aug. 4.
A bridge contract was another option the two sides could have used, but it was very unlikely as the organization has never done this type of contract when a player was one year away from being an unrestricted free agent.
The Rangers needed to keep Kevin Hayes in their lineup long term. Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil are the future of the team, but they are still just kids playing in the best men’s league in the world. Hayes has just begun to show what he can bring to the ice, the organization needs to recognize his value and not worry about the overabundance of centers currently on the team.
A year from now the team could look extremely different without Hayes and Zuccarello. This rebuild is already causing the organization to make poor decisions.
Trading Hayes because of the organization’s indecisiveness in the team next move can put the team even further away from the playoffs then they already are. This team needs to try and entice Hayes to sign a long-term deal in January which will be no easy task.
By that point, Hayes will be four months away from the UFA market, a critical point in a players career. It would be foolish for him to sign a deal then.
The team cannot continue to make poor decisions.