Breaking: Flyers Sign (No Longer) Pending UFA Kevin Hayes
This is officially the craziest offseason the Flyers have had since at least 2013. First the Niskanen and Braun trades, the MacDonald buyout, and now, more news tonight. The Flyers have officially signed formerly pending UFA center Kevin Hayes, fifteen days after acquiring his rights fifteen days ago. Yay!
Hayes has signed a 7-year deal with an AAV of approximately $7.14 million per season ($7,142,857 to be specific). I'm going to be straight up with you - that's a lot of money, and a lot of term, for a player who isn't a gamechanger. A very solid second line center yes, but not a gamechanger.
Obviously, the Flyers thought they had a good chance of signing Hayes - otherwise, they wouldn't have traded for his rights. Hayes is coming off a career-high 55-point season split between the New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets. He is a solid defensive center with a decent offensive track-record. He is only 27. He will fill the gap at 2C until Nolan Patrick is ready. 2C was a major weakness for the Flyers last year, and it was clear that Hayes was a top priority as probably the only legitimate 2C on the market. That's the good news.
If Hayes can replicate his 2018-19 season for the next five years, then this is about fair value for Hayes. But is that likely, considering that 2018-19 was probably the best season of Hayes' five-year career? The cap is going up, but there are rumors that next year's cap may come in under the previously projected $83 million. At this point, every dollar is precious for the Flyers.
UPDATE: Hayes also receives a 3-year full no-move clause at the beginning of his deal. This means he will be automatically protected in the Seattle expansion draft unless the Flyers ask him to waive the clause and he agrees. Hayes will have a 12-team no-trade list for the remaining four years.
With Hayes, Niskanen, and Braun in, the Flyers probably are done making moves unless a roster player (*cough cough Shayne Gostisbehere*) is moved. According to CapFriendly, the Flyers will only have just under $23 million, with the 5 key RFAs (Provorov, Konecny, Sanheim, Laughton, and Hartman) all unsigned. The Flyers also still lack a backup goalie, which sounds more and more like it may be solved via trade rather than internally.
Over the past three weeks, Chuck Fletcher has improved the Flyers roster, at least a little bit. The question now is whether the players acquired were worth the price, both in assets given up and dollars spent. For the Flyers sake, both next year and in the future, the answer better be yes.
A lot of Flyers fans are probably feeling a little nervous right now. The Flyers have added over $14.5 million in salary over the last few weeks. Hayes, Niskanen, and Braun are all improvements, but maybe not to the degree that we'd have hoped. A lot of the people calling for Chuck Fletcher to do something at the start of the month are now yelling at him for doing stuff that wasn't exactly what they wanted.
However, if you look at the Flyers CapFriendly, you'll notice that Giroux and Couturier are UFAs in three years. Gostisbehere and van Riemsdyk will meet the same fate the year after. After next season, Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom, and Phil Myers will be RFAs; Carter Hart will join them one year later. At some point in the very near future, if the Flyers want to win a Cup with their current core, they have to step up and take their shot.
This isn't the entirety of that push, but it's a start. Regardless of your thoughts on Fletcher's recent moves, that attitude is something the Flyers have not had in a while. It's going to be nervewracking all summer, but hopefully it will pay off well into the springs and summers of years to come.
It may not be easy, but try to keep your faith. It will make everything so much better when things finally work out. I don't when they will, but eventually, they will. Maybe, just maybe, these moves are beginning to form the group that will end the Flyers 44-year drought. We can only hope.