NHL Notes: Cap-challenged B's should keep eye on Hayes

NHL Notes: Cap-challenged B's should keep eye on Hayes
July 19, 2014, 12:30 pm
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The expectation is that things will be quiet on the trade front for the Bruins for at least a couple more months.

The big news will be press releases such as Friday afternoon's when the Black and Gold trumpeted the re-signing of Jordan Caron, Justin Florek and Zach Trotman among other to short-term contracts. Those are all necessary transactions and useful players, but a two-way deal for Craig Cunningham or Tommy Cross doesn’t exactly capture the imagination of an uneasy Bruins Nation.

The ultimate re-signing of Torey Krug and Reilly Smith will be bigger news for the Black and Gold, but any big moves to significantly improve the team won’t be happening until September.

“I’m always working. There’s stuff going on, it’s just not fast," general manager Peter Chiarelli said. "There are parameters and deals talked about, and it’s just kind of pushing it along slowly. There’s not urgency. It may happen that [a trade] happens on the eve of training camp or two days before, because the player has to get to that camp from where he is. But it’s slow, it’s slow.”

Sure, it could still be a big move involving Winnipeg Jets winger Evander Kane if GM Kevin Cheveldayoff eventually gets off the pot and decides to make a genuine big deal to stir up a stagnant group. That could be helped if Kane becomes a problem in training camp right off the bat and does something a little more forceful than favoritng a tweet about getting traded to the Flyers.

That would be costly for the Bruins, though, in terms of salary-cap space and assets, such as Brad Marchand, that could be going in the other direction for a big-bodied, fast-skating player who has proven he can score 30 goals in the NHL.

Sure, it could be some kind of deal involving Johnny Boychuk that would bring the Bruins a young, talented winger with the kind of speed/skill package that Boston has been seeking out this summer. Clearly, the Bruins could use the cap relief brought on by moving Boychuk’s $3.36 million price tag, but they’d also effectively be ripping out a heart-and-soul player from Boston’s blue line.

Boychuk’s willingness to endure a puck to the face or crunch an opponent with a momentum-changing, bone-rattling body check is the epitome of Bruins hockey, and can’t be understated when calculating the B’s formula for success.

The Bruins could also sit back and hope that 18-year-old David Pastrnak is ready to be the real NHL deal for next season and that he can show off the nifty puck skills and electric offensive game at 171 pounds. Let’s not forget Tyler Seguin was able to do it in spots just four years ago, but the ultimate production for the teenager’s rookie NHL season was 11 goals and 22 points, along with a minus-4, while averaging just 12:13 of ice time per game.

There are pros and cons to each of those potential solutions to the B’s right-wing dilemma caused by Jarome Iginla’s departure, and the B’s cap situation has made fixing it that much more challenging.

“There are not a lot of guys out there that can shoot it, and you can automatically put on that half wall for the one-timer," Chiarelli said. "It might be that that guy is not available. It’s a task that I will continue to look at the rest of the year, the rest of the summer and into the fall, even as we progress. There are guys out there at we are looking at right now. We’ve got some internal guys that you might be able to put in that are ready, or very close to being ready.

“Part of the master scheme here is that we’ve got some players here whose deals are coming up that we have to sign, and they are important players. I’m not diminishing the value of the younger players, but we want to try and keep as much of the core players together as possible. Part of that formula is that you’re going to have to pay them some money and then as a result you’re going to have to get the younger guys in.”

It can be frustrating to watch a team locked into inertia by its place in cap jail, but this is what happens to good NHL teams in the salary cap era.

Plain and simple, if you try to keep a veteran team together eventually it will push you to the hockey poor house.

So what about a different solution using a little creativity and Red Auerbach-level craftiness by Chiarelli?


Keep an eye on the situation in Chicago with 21-year-old Kevin Hayes, who is a couple of months away from going the Blake Wheeler route and walking away via free agency from the Blackhawks, who drafted him in the first round in 2010. Hayes should be very familiar to Boston hockey aficionados as a Dorchester native, along with older brother, Florida Panthers forward Jimmy Hayes. Kevin was a standout at Boston College, who finished last season as a Hobey Baker finalist with 27 goals and 65 points as a senior.

Even better, he’s listed at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds on the BC website and is a right winger much more prepared to handle the rigors of an 82-game NHL regular season than Pastrnak would be. The big body and skill around the net in Hayes’ game could be a perfect fit if the Bruins wanted to keep alive the formula of putting David Krejci between a pair of bookend power forward-types.

If Hayes doesn’t come to an agreement with the Chicago Blackhawks by Aug. 15, then he becomes a highly sought free agent who can choose his NHL destination, and what red-blooded Boston kid wouldn’t want to don the spoked B sweater?

Obviously, Chicago and Hayes’ camp are still talking and could come to an agreement, but Hayes’ agent told ESPNChicago.com recently that there’s a lot going into the decision-making process for his client.

“There are a number of issues we’re trying to evaluate,” said Hayes agent, Robert Murray. “Depth of organization has some bearing on it. There’s just a bunch of criteria we’re trying to take a look at. The situation is there’s no urgency for sign for Kevin.

“He’s not going to play anywhere until training camp in September. Whether he signs today or two weeks from now or a month from now, it doesn’t make any difference. There’s no reason in our mind to rush into something until he can decide something and see where things are at.”

The most attractive part about Hayes to the Bruins, beyond being a right-winger, and size/skill: the cost. As an NCAA free agent, Hayes would still need to agree to an entry level deal, and his maximum cap hit would be a team-friendly $900,000, along with any bonus money agreed to in the contract. It would essentially be like putting one of their own homegrown rookies into the lineup with minimal cost. There's also the chance they could have a legit NHL player, based on his first-round ability and production at Boston College.

The Bruins could also hold onto their NHL assets, which would be shipped out in a trade for an established NHL talent.

Clearly, there is other NHL competition for Hayes. There are already reports bubbling out there that the Rangers are interested, and he did play with Chris Kreider for a couple of years at BC. He could also choose to sign with the Calgary Flames, and reunite with BC buddies Johnny Gaudreau and Bill Arnold to create a Western Canada edition of the Heights.

We all know that Flames president Brian Burke has long valued NCAA players, so you can’t discount that possibility.

There’s also the draw of the Florida Panthers to reunite with his brother Jimmy, after he was dealt to Florida away from the Blackhawks last November following three years bouncing between the NHL and AHL in Chicago.

Other teams, such as Montreal, Colorado and San Jose, have been mentioned as potential suitors for Hayes should he become a free man on Aug. 15, but it shouldn’t be very difficult to sell the local kid on a chance to make a difference right off the bat for the Black and Gold.

He is a left shot, so it’s not the perfect fit for Chiarelli and Claude Julien in their preference for strict left shot/left wing-right shot/right wing division, but just about everything else feels right about a potential marriage between Hayes and the Bruins.

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