Player: Kevin Hayes
Cap Hit Outlook: $900,000, Entry level deal that expires this summer
Status: RFA (arbitration eligible), Top 6 potential
2015-2016 G-A-P: 14-22-36 in 79 GP
Are sophomore slumps real? You may want to ask Kevin Hayes, who was lackluster at best in his second year campaign. This year Hayes posted 14 goals and 22 assists in 79 games with 0 points in his 3-playoff games. Hayes was scrutinized for his play all year by fans and media, but was only benched by the coaching staff for a few games, most notably the last two games of the playoffs. Hayes has been given ample time to prove that he belongs in a blueshirt, but what has he shown for it?
Hayes was a highly coveted prospect out of Boston College who couldn’t strike a deal with the Blackhawks. The Rangers acquired him on August 20, 2014, with much buzz in the air as to the potential player Hayes could grow into. With a 6 foot 5 inch frame at 227 pounds and an above average set of hands, Hayes could have been the goal scoring power forward the Rangers have always yearned for (Sorry Nash). Hayes has shown at times that he can be an offensive threat, however more often than not he has shown to be a defensive liability who often seems lost on the ice. Many fans and media have claimed Hayes is lazy and doesn’t give 100%. I’m not sure if I can agree with that, but what I can say is that his production and impact on this team has not impressed me, and should not have impressed Rangers management. The real upside of Hayes is the fact that he is only 23 years old with significant time to grow in this league. The question is how much time and money are the Rangers willing to spend on talent that may never develop?
The Rangers retool this summer has many unanswered questions. However, AV cleared one thing up when he was asked if Kevin Hayes has a future with the Rangers. The answer was a quick but powerful “Yes”. I guess for me the answer isn’t as simple as that. The Rangers have 4 key RFA’s this summer: Kreider, Miller, Hayes, and McIlrath. With the team in its current cap crunch, it’s likely we can only afford 3 of the 4. It’s pretty plain to see that Kreider and Miller will be locked up and according to AV Hayes is also a “Yes”. That leaves McIlrath as the odd man out, which shouldn’t surprise anyone with the coaches inability to trust or insert the big man into the lineup (discussed in detail in McIlrath’s column below). In my opinion, Kreider and Miller are also locks but the decision between Hayes and McIlrath is much more difficult with me favoring the stay at home, shut down defenseman.
Obviously some big decisions have to be made on Kevin Hayes. If we let him go and he turns into the next Rick Nash (On the Blue Jackets, of course) then we lose out, but if we sign him and he continues to be mediocre we sacrifice years of agony and money. Remember that Hayes is currently finishing his entry-level contract at $900k per and is arbitration eligible. In my estimation he likely can get a deal for around $2 to $2.5 million at 4 or 5 years. I’m not sure the Rangers should be so willing to give that to him. As Dan Girardi once said, “the dude from Boston” may be better off packing his bags and joining his brother up in Beantown.
What would you do with the underachieving Hayes? Let us know in the comments below.