Philadelphia Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher isn’t wasting much time setting his team up to bring on some much-needed depth down the middle.
The Flyers traded for the rights of Winnipeg Jets center Kevin Hayes on Monday night for a 2019 fifth-round draft pick.
Hayes, 27, began the 2018-19 season with the rebuilding New York Rangers before being dealt to Winnipeg at the NHL’s February trade deadline.
He will be a free agent on Jul. 1, which means that Hayes won’t necessarily ever appear in a Flyers jersey.
Yet Fletcher’s aggressive move, for the small price of a fifth-round draft pick, allows the Flyers to start negotiations with Hayes now rather than with the rest of the league next month.
Despite moving during the season, Hayes put up a career year in 2018-19, recording 55 points on 19 goals and 36 assists.
While he’ll be looking for a larger contract, this is a player that has averaged just 0.60 points per game over his career. So the Flyers shouldn’t have to break the bank to retain him.
The Massachusetts native is a power forward reliant on his strength in front of the net and on the puck, which makes up for a lack of speed. That style of play is plenty familiar in Philadelphia when mentioning the likes of John LeClair — of course, that’s at a Hall-of-Fame-worthy level.
Regardless, adding a player like Hayes suddenly gives the Flyers quite the attractive trio of centers on their top three lines.
With Sean Couturier posting his second-straight 76-point campaign, the playmaker will be a lock to lead Philadelphia’s top line once again. For the time being, Hayes would offer a solid No. 2 option until the young Nolan Patrick is ready to take the next leap in his NHL development.
The 20-year-old selected second in the 2017 draft has averaged just 30.5 points over his first two professional seasons.
If his improvements come slowly, Hayes provides the perfect amount of insurance to guarantee there will still be production on the Flyers’ second line.