The Philadelphia Flyers jumped into the unrestricted free agent market a little early this season, trading a fifth-round pick to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for a chance to speak with Kevin Hayes before his contract expires in a few weeks. The hope is that the team can convince Hayes to forego free agency entirely and sign an extension in Philadelphia, giving them another solid option down the middle without having to fight off other bidding teams. Today GM Chuck Fletcher met with the media and gave an update on the Hayes negotiations:
Nothing to announce at this point. We’ve had good preliminary conversations with Kevin and his camp. We anticipate moving forward with those conversations this week…Obviously, we have strong interest in him.
It’s now less than two weeks until the interview process opens and pending free agents are allowed to start speaking with potential teams, meaning the Flyers are running out of time to get something worked out with Hayes. Even the very best available free agents are starting to wait until the interview period to speak with teams, making sure they aren’t missing out on any interesting opportunities. If Hayes does sign with the Flyers, it would remove one of the top options at center this summer and potentially increase the market of other names like Matt Duchene.
The Flyers meanwhile are trying to lock up another core forward to add to their group of veterans. Hayes would give the team a fifth player up front signed for at least $4.3MM per season, joining Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, James van Riemsdyk and Sean Couturier as a more than capable top-six group. That doesn’t even include young burgeoning stars like Nolan Patrick and Travis Konecny who look ready to really come into their own as difference makers in the NHL. Fletcher explained exactly why he is after Hayes’ services:
He plays a full 200-foot game. He kills penalties, which is an area we need to improve at. He understands the game and has great hockey sense.
Philadelphia has plenty of cap space for next season, currently sitting at a projection of more than $33.4MM under the expected $83MM cap ceiling. That isn’t even including any potential buyout savings from the likes of Andrew MacDonald, who currently carries a $5MM cap hit for next season but recorded just nine points in 47 games last season and has seen his play rapidly decline in recent years. Even a long-term deal for the 27-year old Hayes would be easy enough to fit into their salary structure at this point.