Kevin Hayes, the Chicago Blackhawks first round pick in the 2010 NHL draft, has not signed to a contract after playing four years in the NCAA, and became an unrestricted free agent.
The 22 year old was selected 24th overall, two picks after the Montreal Canadiens took Jarred Tinordi in the 2010 draft. He is apparently looking for a team where he has more of a chance to play than with the extremely deep Blackhawks, so he refused their contract offers.
Hayes had a very successful career at Boston College, scoring 132 points in 142 career games over his four year career. After starting relatively slowly in his first two years, Hayes scored an impressive 25 points in 27 games as a Junior, and had an excellent Senior season that saw him pot 65 points in just 40 contests.
Now a 22 year old UFA and former first round pick, Hayes is a highly sought after commodity on the open market. Much like the Justin Schultz sweepstakes two summers ago, even though Hayes will attract many offers from around the NHL, he will sign an entry level contract, which means his cap hit will remain under a million dollars.
It is not a normal bidding war, as his contract is subject to rookie deal rules which means Hayes will pick the best destination from a number of suitors who offer an identical contract.
Knowing he will sign for two years at a $925,000 cap hit with performance bonuses, it will be up to Hayes to pick the best situation for him.
You have to think the Montreal Canadiens would be an attractive option for the former first round pick.
Hayes is a big winger, listed at 6’4” and 210 pounds, and will be looking to slot in on a team’s top three lines right away. It just so happens that the Canadiens have one roster spot in their top nine that needs to be filled, the third line right winger.
This would give Hayes a spot on a team that just made its way to the Eastern Conference Final, and he would be almost definitely be penciled in on a line with two way center Lars Eller who is coming off a breakout postseason that saw him score 13 points in 17 games.
Hayes would get what he wants, which is an opportunity to contribute on a good team next season. The Canadiens would be filling a huge need with an offensive player who would be their biggest forward.
There are other rumored destinations for Hayes that include the Florida Panthers, where his brother Jimmy plays, the Calgary Flames where College linemate Johnny Gaudreau is suiting up, and the Boston Bruins where he could stay in the city he played in for the past four seasons.
However, the Bruins would be a tough lineup to crack, and the Panthers and Flames were bottom feeders last season. The Montreal Canadiens offer a third line role on a team that could reasonably see itself on top of the Eastern Conference next season.
There is no question the Montreal Canadiens want Kevin Hayes. The only question is whether he thinks the Habs are the best fit for him. You would have to think they will give Hayes plenty to think about as an unrestricted free agent.