The wait is over, and it’s a bit of a letdown. The long-winded trade between the Philadelphia Flyers and St. Louis Blues is complete, and center Kevin Hayes will be heading to the Blues for a 2024 sixth-round pick, the teams announced.
Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli reports the Flyers, as expected, will be retaining half of Hayes’ salary for the life of his contract. For the next three seasons, both the Flyers and Blues will be on the hook for $3.57MM in cap space for Hayes.
Fans of both teams were expecting a much larger deal to come through, but with Blues defenseman Torey Krug reportedly opting not to waive his no-trade clause, the additional pieces in the trade, expected to be Flyers defenseman Travis Sanheim and one of St. Louis’ late first-round picks in this week’s draft, were removed.
While most would agree Hayes was overpaid on his deal, earning him more than $7MM, a 50 percent discount is an extremely appealing acquisition for the retooling Blues. He’s still a capable middle-six center, and his acquisition will alleviate Pavel Buchnevich, allowing him to return to his natural spot on the wing after shifting to center at the end of 2022-23.
St. Louis will be Hayes’ fourth team in his nine-year, 634-game NHL career. He’s had consistent offensive production throughout his career, routinely scoring between 40 and 55 points (at least in full seasons), but he was given far too lofty expectations when he signed in Philadelphia.
The messaging is clear here from the Flyers’ side: a rebuild is here, and it’s massive. Opting to retain a decent chunk of change on Hayes for three seasons – with essentially no compensation – signals they don’t anticipate spending to the cap ceiling anytime soon.
While moving on from Hayes doesn’t free up cap space that the Flyers need to use, it does free up some needed roster spots down the middle of the ice. Both Morgan Frost and Noah Cates are in line for more ice time after strong campaigns in 2022-23, and with Sean Couturier slated to return to play next season, Hayes could have pushed one (or both) of Cates and Frost into a bottom-six role.
Hayes’ 54 points in 81 games last season would have ranked fifth on the Blues. He’ll likely slot into a third-line center spot there behind Robert Thomas and Brayden Schenn, although he could overtake Schenn on the depth chart if things go well.
ESPN’s Kevin Weekes was first to report the trade.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.