Kevin Hayes
Bruno Rouby, ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

New York Rangers center Kevin Hayes has carried the team on his back this season which is why the team must sign him to an extension in January.

Frank Curto

This is the most important thing to write about center Kevin Hayes: The New York Rangers must sign him to a new contract this January.

This should be a no-brainer, as the young center has led the way for this Rangers team. The man has done it all in the teams first 17 games of the year. Scoring goals, winning faceoffs, connecting on pin-point accurate passes, Kevin Hayes has demonstrated his value to this organization.

Rangerstown grew quite concerned when Hayes and the Rangers, unable to agree on a long-term contract, signed a one year contract in August. The one-year, $5.75 million contracts will make the center an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. The kicker here is that since Hayes was a restricted free agent he cannot sign and a new contract with the team until Jan. 1, 2019. That’s less than 60 days away from the trade deadline.

The 26-year-old suffered through a slow start to the season, tallying just one assist in his first five games. He didn’t score his first goal until Oct. 16 in a win over the Colorado Avalanche. Since then, his game has converted back to the way he was expected to play. In the 11 games since his first goal, he has recorded two goals, with seven assists in those 11 games. The center is averaging 20:03 minutes per game and is performing at a 52.9 percent faceoff percentage.

Since the start of his NHL career, 148 of Hayes’s 185 career points have either been a goal or the primary assist on a goal. Hayes has recorded six assists/points in the last three games and eight points (one goal, seven assists) in the last six games.

Numbers can be misleading, but for Hayes, they are the beginning of the story. His overall confidence on the ice has been a key factor in his play in the short amount of time the team has played this season. In the Rangers 5-4 shootout win against the Columbus Blue Jackets, he showed off his skill on two huge goals in the game.

Kevin Hayes collects the puck off his skate before dishing the puck through a tight spot to Chris Kreider who scores the easy tap-in goal which gave the Rangers a 3-1 second-period lead.

Late in the second period, Hayes and the Rangers were down a goal and the gritty center circled the net, feeding the puck to Jimmy Vesey who scored to tie the game at four.

These scoring plays, along with his faceoff skill, and ability to bring the best out of his teammates, is why the Rangers shouldn’t ever consider trading him. The teams rebuild is in full force and who better to take the team back to its traditional ways than with Kevin Hayes.

The center has made it known that he wants to remain a Ranger long-term as has general manager Jeff Gorton stating he wants to keep the Massachusetts native on Broadway. The organization must ignore calls for Hayes to be involved in a deal and give him the extension that both sides have stated can and should be done.

A new contract will probably need to be in the five years, $30 million range. The team needs to ensure Hayes will be here long-term to lead the team, probably more than anyone else on this club. The veteran forward, now in his sixth season in New York, has the respect of all the players on his team and can be an important asset in working with players such as e Brett Howden, Lias Andersson, and Filip Chytil.

He can play any forward position, kills penalties and has a great shot when on the power play. He has grown into a reliable player that coach David Quinn depends on daily.

This is a no-brainer decision to be made. Trading Hayes would be a huge step backward in the rebuilding process. He has everything the team looks for in a player, and his NHL experience is something you won’t find in many other players. He has played in at least 76 games in every regular season since his debut season in 2014-15.

The organization needs to keep the team’s leader on and off the ice, regardless of who they can pick up in a trade. Respect is something that is earned, not just handed out and Hayes has earned the teams respect.

He wears the Red, White and Blue sweater proudly and he should stay in New York for many years to come leading the team and its fans back to the playoffs, and maybe another Stanley Cup run.

A graduate of St. John's University class of '91. I have been a fan of the New York Rangers since the days of Peter Puck. Founder of Ranger Proud, the Facebook page that covers all news, notes, pre /post-game stats, and player quotes. I can be reached at