Does Kevin Hayes Really Want to Be a Flyer? Does It Matter?
Though he has yet to play a single game as a Philadelphia Flyer, opinions are already divided on Kevin Hayes. Some are excited for the stability he brings down the middle, forming a dominant trio with Sean Couturier and Nolan Patrick at center. Others are concerned about the massive 7-year, $50 million contract the Flyers committed to Hayes, who has never scored more than 55 points in a season and will be 34 when the deal expires.
Die heart fans are often desperate for news when the calendar turns to August, eager to turn any minor tidbit into breaking news. However, there hasn't been a lot of attention surrounding one recent story. Frank Seravalli of TSN reported that the 27-year old center had no intentions of signing with the Flyers, even when the team traded a 5th round pick to Winnipeg to acquire his rights.
Here's what Seravalli told Crossing Broad's Snow the Goalie podcast on Tuesday:
"I don’t understand why (the Flyers) felt the need to spend a pick in order to go out and (trade for Kevin Hayes’ rights). I don’t think there was a team that would’ve come close to the Flyers’ number, because if there were, Kevin Hayes would’ve just waited until July 1, and I have that on good authority. I was with a current NHL player the night before Game 7 in Boston who – five minutes before seeing me – ran into Kevin Hayes outside of somewhere in downtown Boston, which is obviously his hometown. He goes, ‘Oh yeah. I just ran into Kevin Hayes.’ He said Kevin Hayes told him the only way he’s going to the Flyers is if the Flyers overpaid to get him. And how much did they overpay by? It’s hard to answer that specifically, but I would say at least $600k-700k a year times seven years.”
Back in the Flyers glory days, when Mr. Snider was alive and well, it seemed like free agents were begging to come to the City of Brotherly Love. In previous years, some fans began to argue that the Flyers were no longer a premier destination. It seemed the biggest reason the Flyers didn't attract top players via free agency recently was Ron Hextall's reluctancy to spend big money on short term fixes. The JVR signing last summer amplified this point.
But suddenly, what was once thought of as an absurd and extremely negative viewpoint is suddenly a bit more realistic. Seravalli is a trusted reporter (he broke the JVR signing), so there's no doubt about the statement's credibility. And remember, the Flyers gave van Riemsdyk $7 million per season, far from a steal for a winger who does little else than score goals.
There are two ways that you can look at Seravalli's statement. The first is that Hayes actually doesn't want to be in Philadelphia. Maybe he didn't like the city, maybe he didn't like playing under Vigneault, maybe he just had his sights set on another destination. He's going to come into the season with a miserable attitude, and if things don't start well, he's going to pout and potentially be a negative on and off the ice. In a year or two, this contract is going to look like a massive flop, with Hayes wanting out and the Flyers unable to rid themselves of him without attaching an asset with him.
If you're not buying all the doom and gloom (like myself), then you might want to check out interpretation number two. Maybe Philadelphia wasn't Hayes top option, but it's hard to imagine he'd completely ignore fit and happiness when choosing where to live for the next seven years. He may just like the city, instead of being totally in love with it just yet.
In terms of the overpayment part, frankly, that's just part of unrestricted free agency in today's NHL. Rarely do players as good as Hayes sign for below market value. Center is often a position of high demand on July 1st, and this year, supply was low. Only Matt Duchene was a better option down the middle, and he appeared to have his heart set on going to Nashville. Anyone interested in Hayes was likely going to pay him $6.5-7.25 million to be a serious option. In the salary cap era, it's true that every dollar is important, but $600-700K is far from breaking the bank.
Whether Hayes truly wants to be in Philadelphia or not, we'll likely never know, and I doubt anyone will care if he produces as expected come puck drop. If he does perform poorly, than perhaps this quote was a bit of foreshadowing a bad decision. Though it sounds like an ominous tale, and certainly has the potential to blow it up, hopefully we'll be looking back on it in 10 months, laughing about our over-blown concern after Stanley Cup Champion Kevin Hayes' 146-point season.
Or something like that.