The New York Rangers have agreed to a two-year deal with everyone's favorite former first-round pick, Kevin Hayes, according to reports. The whole Hayes situation didn't get proper coverage here during the editorial leadership transition, but this pretty much spells to an end to the saga for now.
Hayes was drafted by the Blackhawks with the No. 24 overall pick in the 2010 draft before emerging as an NCAA superstar at Boston College during his senior season. Leading the Eagles with 28 goals and 67 points in 39 games, the 22-year-old became one of the top prospects in hockey entering the upcoming season.
That was a problem for the Blackhawks, who couldn't really offer Hayes a significant role on their relatively loaded roster for 2014-15. So instead of agreeing to an entry-level deal with Chicago, he opted to hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent and pick his first club.
Hayes' agent, Robert Murray, continued to insist the Blackhawks wouldn't be out of the mix simply because they didn't sign him before the deadline, but that always felt questionable. It's not like there were huge demands for cash, since Hayes is still beholden to the entry-level contract system in place for rookie players, and the issues that existed before the deadline -- a lack of playing time, financial flexibility, etc. -- remain today.
After all that, Hayes signed with the Rangers for just $925,000 annually plus incentives, so it looks like that team could have a major bargain on its hand. As for the Blackhawks, they'll now receive a compensatory pick (No. 54 overall) in next year's draft, a decent token of gratitude but nothing remotely as valuable as simply having Hayes in the fold.
Some might wonder if this will be an issue for Chicago going forward -- talented young players wanting to avoid the team's stacked NHL roster -- but I think it's premature for such concerns. The Blackhawks have shown enough commitment to drafting and player development in recent years, with young guys like Brandon Saad, Nick Leddy, Ben Smith and others emerging as legit contributors, that one prospect shouldn't be indicative of a trend.
But it is frustrating, and it will be something to watch in the future as GM Stan Bowman handles dealings with prospects in the future. This is one of the unfortunate aspects of being a great team, and we'll have to see how it ultimately impacts the Hawks going forward.