NHL notes: Bruins express interest in free agent Hayes

NHL notes: Bruins express interest in free agent Hayes
August 17, 2014, 2:30 pm
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It makes too much sense for the Boston Bruins and suddenly unrestricted free agent Kevin Hayes to find each other at the NHL level, and it could just happen.

A source indicated to CSNNE.com that the Bruins have expressed interest in Hayes to his agent, Robert Murray, since he became an amateur free agent this weekend. The hope is that the Black and Gold are in the mix for the Boston College standout among a group of NHL suitors that have made him a hot hockey property.

The Dorchester native was a 2010 first round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks, but – much like Blake Wheeler six years ago – became a free agent when Hayes and the Hawks couldn’t come to an agreement on a contract. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound right wing is looking for an NHL situation where he could immediately compete for a job this season, and that wasn’t going to happen on a stacked Chicago club.

“We offered Kevin what we believed was a generous and fair contract. Unfortunately, he felt it was in his best interests to become a free agent,” said Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman in a statement. “We are looking forward to the compensatory draft pick we are receiving and are focused on the excitement surrounding the start of training camp next month.”

The Blackhawks will receive a second round pick (54th) overall in the 2015 Draft as compensation for failing to sign Hayes.

Normally there wouldn’t be a spot for Hayes on Boston’s roster either, but the departure of a pair of right wings (Jarome Iginla, Shawn Thornton) has created a forward opening or two with the Black and Gold. The fact that Hayes will be working off an entry level deal is another boon to a Bruins team that has been bumped up against the salary cap ceiling all summer.

One other thing not to discount with the Bruins: the family connection that has worked well in recent years. B’s assistant director of amateur scouting Scottie Fitzgerald (uncle) and draft pick Ryan Fitzgerald (cousin) are also part of the extended Hayes hockey family.

The Florida Panthers and Calgary Flames were rumored to also be teams in the mix for Hayes: the Panthers employ Hayes’ older brother Jimmy, and signing with Calgary could reunite Hayes with his BC linemates in Johnny Gaudreau and Bill Arnold. Flames President Brian Burke has long been a fan of US-born collegiate players, and Hayes blew up for 27 goals and 65 points in 40 games at the Heights last season.

”I've heard that natural assumption for a while,” said Brad Treliving to the Calgary Herald of the possibility of reuniting Hayes with his BC linemates Gaudreau and Arnold in Calgary. “I see where people would make the connection. But at this point, we can’t talk about it.”

A source had indicated to CSNNE.com several weeks ago that the Colorado Avalanche were the leaders in the clubhouse for Hayes, however, and that the Nashville Predators were another team in the mix.

The Providence Journal’s Mark Divver had also listed the New York Rangers and Phoenix Coyotes as suitors for Hayes, buy those clubs don’t appear to have the same draws as some of the other organizations. There’s also the possibility that Pittsburgh Penguins assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald could help lure his nephew to his offensively viable club, but there hasn’t been a lot of telltale white smoke coming out of the CONSOL Energy Center offices.

There are a couple of caveats with Boston signing the 22-year-old Hayes, however. He was inconsistent during his time at Boston College, and there are some talent evaluators that feel like he’s more of a Blake Wheeler-type than the traditional, skilled power forward that the B’s are searching for. The size is ideal for Hayes, but he didn’t always play big and strong around the net considering his hands and ability to shoot the puck quickly.

Given his inexperience at the pro level, Hayes probably wouldn’t be a candidate to skate with David Krejci and Milan Lucic right off the bat. But he could be an intriguing fit as a winger with the similarly big-bodied Carl Soderberg on a third line that could really push people around if he has the right NHL stuff right off the bat.

There’s also the danger inherent in entry level deals loaded with bonuses for a cap-strapped team like the Bruins. There’s a very real chance that it could hurt the Bruins next season if Hayes turns out to be an offensive stud much like how Torey Krug put the B’s almost $1 million in the hole for this upcoming season.

With the Bruins tossing their hat in the ring, they’ll now find out quickly if they’re one of the finalist in the Hayes sweepstakes along with at least a couple of other teams that can now begin to woo a free agent in demand. The Bruins have also invited former Bruins Killer Simon Gagne to training camp and still have an army of young wingers looking to impress in camp, but bringing in local first round talent would be a good move for a Boston club that’s still searching for a few good right wingers.

 
ONE TIMERS

* Inviting Simon Gagne to training camp is a potentially great move for the Bruins with no risk, and a potentially high reward. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli must have received a good report from Gagne’s sometimes workout partner Patrice Bergeron in Quebec, and he always seemed to play well against the Black and Gold in the past. Nobody can forget it was Gagne that drove the final dagger into the B’s 2010 collapse to the Flyers in Game 7 at the Garden, and it was Gagne that again proved to be a handful with the Tampa Bay Lightning the following season in the conference finals.

He’s scored 15 goals and 11 assists in 39 career games against the Black and Gold, and seemed to always have their number.

The 34-year-old Gagne has averaged only 36 games played over the last two seasons while fighting through concussion problems, and didn’t provide much production for the Kings or the Flyers. He didn’t play at all last season while presumably trying to regain full health. But it’s worth the stretch for a winger that’s scored 37 goals in 109 career playoff games, and could provide NHL-caliber depth and skill to a Bruins team that could always use a little bit more of both.

 
* Credit to SportsNet’s Jeff Marek, who was all over Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Sonny Milano eschewing Boston College for OHL junior hockey ranks, and tweeted the info a couple of weeks ago. It was met with plenty of hand-wringing and poopoo-ing in the college hockey media community over the last few weeks, but Marek was proven dead on balls accurate when Milano finally committed to the Plymouth Whalers, and informed Boston College he wouldn’t be playing in Chestnut Hill this season, or any season for that matter.

It’s a big blow for Jerry York’s hockey program for this upcoming season and beyond, but this also seems to happen to big Hockey East programs, like Boston College and Boston University, on a semi-regular basis. While the Blue Jackets management publicly said earlier this summer that it was the 16th overall pick’s choice in the end, there are many that believe they may have had something to do with the US-born Milano’s developmental decision.


*Remember, keep shooting pucks at the net and good things are bound to happen.