New York Rangers, Kevin Hayes
Bruno Rouby, ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

New York Rangers center Kevin Hayes spoke about his future yet provided no specific answers with the trade deadline approaching.

Frank Curto

The very moment New York Rangers center Kevin Hayes signed his one-year contract last summer, the question has remained the same: Will the organization and player agree on a long-term deal before the trade deadline in February?

Well, February is here. With three weeks separating us from the trade deadline, that question remains unanswered.

The two sides have said next to nothing with regards to Hayes’s future with New York. Hayes finally opened up and spoke a little about how he feels about making a living on Broadway along with the possibility of being traded.

“It’s either I’ll be here for a long time or I’ll be out of here,” Hayes said to Dan Rosen of the NHL.com.

The 26-year old, who will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, went into more detail.

“I love this team, love the guys here,” Hayes said. “It’s fun being with the new group from the beginning of the year and seeing what we’ve built. I love the behind-the-scenes people here. I’m super close with them. I love the city. I love the fans. I love everything about New York. I’ve been here five years. I never thought I would call New York home and I do now, and it’s been an absolute blast for five years. If I had my choice, I’d be here. I never thought I’d be in the NHL. It’s been a dream since I’ve been a kid playing in the street. It’s been an unbelievable experience. I want it to last a very long time. Hopefully, it can happen here. If it doesn’t, I’ll be sad to leave but happy to stay in the NHL.”

The Rangers want to continue to get younger and faster, but Hayes has a lot to offer this club. Kevin, who returned to the lineup Tuesday after missing nine games due to an upper-body injury, has scored 10 goals with 33 points in 40 games this season.

New York Rangers

Hayes makes the team better whenever he is in the lineup. He plays on the power play, is the team’s top penalty killer, takes the key offensive and defensive face-offs, and, ultimately, is head coach David Quinn’s most trustworthy player. He sparks the team with his speed, puck control, and smart play in all three zones.

Hayes currently possesses the leverage whether the organization admits it or not.

He is on pace for 60 points, which would be a career high for him. He knows that on plenty of other playoff-bound teams he would be a piece that could fit in to bring them to the Stanley Cup Final. The center is certainly looking for a long-term five or six-year deal. That might the sticking point for the team to negotiate with Kevin.

It appears the team may not want to sign him to a long-term pact. With Hayes playing the best hockey of his career, a contract year, the two sides may not be able to work something out. Except for a few short conversations, the two sides haven’t talked about a new contract.

When the one-year deal was signed last summer, the organization wanted to take its time and see what they had in their young upcoming centers (Filip Chytil and Brett Howden). The two rookies have put forth good seasons, but they cannot compare to what Hayes brings to the table every night. He is entering the prime of his career and should be re-signed now.

There are only three and a half weeks until the trade deadline. Feb. 25, 3 p.m. ET. There is no way of knowing what is going through the mind of general manager Jeff Gorton. Hayes may have all of the leverage, but Gorton has the final say on whether the center stays or goes.

Kevin Hayes
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

If the decision is to move him, expect a deal to happen before Feb. 25. The closer that date comes, the less value the team will receive in return. The other NHL teams know the Rangers must move him, so they will offer less and less as the time to move him grows shorter.

Should the Rangers move Kevin, it will be a major loss in the rebuilding despite what many in the organization might say. So many teams are looking for a player like Hayes to help them win games. Why do the Rangers believe trading him for a roster player and an unproven draft pick is better off for them? In this instance, a trade is a bad decision.

This team may force itself into another situation like last year. The possibility of trading some familiar faces to improve the future. Mats Zuccarello will also be moved this trade season.

Hold your breath; Chris Kreider is an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season and the organization will be going through the same process all over again. Unless they decide to move him now.

The fine line between value and youth is being looked at with the Kevin Hayes contract. Getting younger and faster is always crucial to a developing team, but at what cost? No matter how young a team wants to get, they still need veteran experience with speed, scoring and heart.

The Rangers need Kevin Hayes to remain a Blueshirt.

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