August 21 2014 01:30PM
No Kevin Hayes for the Calgary Flames? How could this have happened? How did the team get beat out by the New York Rangers on Wednesday for the services of the big right-winger whose standout Boston College linemates are already part of the organization?
It seemed like a no-brainer, right? With two-thirds of the top line in the NCAA ranks last season making its debut in the Flames’ season finale in Vancouver, where Johnny Gaudreau and Bill Arnold suited up for the Flames days after their championship hopes ended at the Frozen Four in the spring, it made sense to believe the hype that Hayes would seriously consider a reunion when the inevitable happened and he became an unrestricted free agent by rejecting the Chicago Blackhawks’ last contract offer.
Hayes — the Blackhawks’ first-round pick in 2010 —was able to pick his NHL landing spot for an entry-level deal as a result.
But for the Flames, one of the team’s most attractive selling points could also have been considered its biggest shortcoming in offering Hayes a place to play.
The former Eagles trio would look great as a line, but it almost certainly would not be in the NHL this coming season. And regardless of the fact they could all play different positions, when time came to fight for a spot on the big club, he might have to beat out one or both of his former BC teammates to grab it.
Besides, if he was picking a team based on the buddy system, wouldn’t he have rather joined brother Jimmy Hayes in the Florida Panthers fold?
Let’s be realistic. Often lost amid the trendy hypothetical storylines in cases like this are the facts — players want to play in the NHL as soon as possible and will make whatever move necessary to give themselves the best shot at doing so.
While the Flames were definitely attracted to Hayes’ 6-foot-3 frame and 200-plus pounds, his hockey sense and skilled hands for a bigger player, Hayes was more interested in a franchise with a history of letting the young guys play early.
Rangers assistant general manager Jeff Gorton told NHL.com that was a factor in his new player’s decision and pointed out that one of those instances includes another of Hayes’ former Boston College teammates, Chris Kreider.
"I think when Kevin was looking at the teams and he looked at the Rangers, I think he looked at the younger players we've had and we've inserted right into the lineup and have had success," Gorton said. "I think Kreider is one of those guys."
The Flames haven’t historically allowed their newcomers to crack the lineup. Last year’s standout rookie Sean Monahan was an exception to the rule, and other players like Markus Granlund, Sven Baertschi and even David Wolf or Michael Ferland might be further along in their development than Hayes, who might need some work on his skating before making the jump.
Even if he did come here and prove capable of cracking the roster sooner than later, the Flames are a longshot to make the playoffs. The Rangers are coming off a Stanley Cup Final appearance and lost roleplayers Benoit Pouliot and Brian Boyle to free agency, also buying out Brad Richards.
There are some things familiar faces and cool storylines can’t compensate for.
As fun as it might have been to play with his college linemates in the
pros, Hayes preferred to attempt a larger leap, straight to the NHL,