As the hockey world prepares to move West to Vancouver for the draft next week, the Flyers need to find answers back home first.
It might even affect what who they take with the 11th-overall pick, or whether they keep the selection at all.
The first order of business is trying to sign center Kevin Hayes, whose rights the Flyers acquired last week. Both sides aren't close on a deal and the team plans on bringing the 27-year-old pending free agent to town this week.
“I don’t have a vibe (of whether he signs or not) other than he’s certainly open minded,” Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said. “You have to remember he’s also three weeks away from getting to July 1, so that’s a nice status to attain in this league. Certainly he’s earned that right and we’re respectful of that, but I think we have a lot to offer here in Philly so we’ll continue to speak to him. I think he’s open minded to conversations, at least that’s what his camp has said to us, and obviously we have strong interest in him.”
Fletcher sent a fifth-round pick to the Winnipeg Jets to get three weeks of negotiating time with Hayes before June 23, when other teams can legally get in his ear about what they’d potentially offer him on July 1 when free agents can officially sign new contracts. Hayes could sign with the Flyers sooner than that because they already have his rights.
Getting a center was a big priority for Fletcher and when asked why, he pointed to the 280 goals against the Flyers had last season, third most in the league. Hayes, who may be even better defensively than he is offensively, would help a lot in that regard and the Flyers’ pro scouting meetings targeted him as the best one to improve the team.
“In this case there’s not a lot of centermen in the marketplace,” Fletcher said. “Kevin is a quality hockey player. He plays a strong, 200-foot game. He’s a guy that can play both specialty teams. He’s familiar with our coach and our coach is familiar with him. We just thought it made sense to try to get ahead of it. There’s no promises that it’s gonna work out, but certainly we felt if we had a couple extra weeks to speak to him and present our case that would be better than maybe just having a couple days at the end of the month.”
Hayes scored a career-high 25 goals two seasons ago with the New York Rangers under new Flyers bench boss Alain Vigneault. Fletcher said that Vigneault spoke highly of Hayes and in conversations with the player, Hayes reciprocated his respect for his former coach.