Since acquiring the exclusive negotiating rights of Kevin Hayes earlier this month, the Philadelphia Flyers have had some preliminary conversations with the pending free agent on a potential contract. Tuesday, Hayes actually met with the Flyers in person and according to Frank Seravalli of TSN was impressed with his visit. Still, Seravalli reports that Philadelphia “isn’t No. 1″ on the veteran center’s list, and notes that the Columbus Blue Jackets and Arizona Coyotes might be of interest.
Hayes, 27, was acquired from the Winnipeg Jets for a fifth-round pick in order to give Philadelphia a head start on contract negotiations. It’s not the first time that Hayes might be intrigued by the idea of free agency however, as he decided not to sign with the Chicago Blackhawks out of college despite the team spending a first-round selection on him in 2010. The Boston College alum decided to sign with the New York Rangers instead, and played the first four-and-a-half seasons of his pro career there before a mid-season trade took him to Winnipeg in February.
There are plenty of reasons why the Flyers would be interested, given that Hayes is coming off his best offensive season. The 6-foot-5 center recorded 54 points in 71 games, though failed to crack the 20-goal mark once again. He has done so in just one of his NHL seasons, something of a red flag for a team expecting him to contribute big numbers at even strength. Still, his size and two-way ability make him a desirable asset for pretty much anyone looking for depth down the middle, something Philadelphia could use if Claude Giroux is going to stay on the wing.
As one of the younger players available this summer, there will be no shortage of suitors for Hayes. The Blue Jackets would make sense if Matt Duchene departs in free agency, while the Coyotes have been trying to find consistent production at the center position for years. Both teams also have former teammates of Hayes from New York involved in some way. Derek Stepan is a leader in the Arizona locker room, while Rick Nashhas been working with Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen for the last while.