Unless you believe the rumours that Flames President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke has had illicit and depraved sexual relationships with both the mother and father of Jimmy and Kevin Hayes, which you should not because I just made that up (though still widely unproven!), there’s fine reason to believe that by this time tomorrow, former NCAA star and pending UFA Kevin Hayes could be a member of your Calgary Flames.
(Hell, even if the Burke thing was true…I mean good intentions are good intentions, right?)
Anyway, if you’re unaware of the news, the current Blackhawks prospect is about to become not a Blackhawk by the stroke of midnight tonight (I think 10 PM mountain, but whatever, close enough). And while many teams have been linked as active suitors for the big 22 year old (The Preds, Bruins, and with his brother in Florida have all been bandied about as possible destinations), there’s reason to believe the Flames have as strong a shot as anyone, if not stronger, to land Hayes.
Who Is Kevin Hayes?
Let’s get the biography out of the way. Kevin Hayes is a 6’3″, 205 pound, 22 year old right winger from Dorchester, Massachusetts, and if you were wondering if he possesses that sweet Boston accent, well yeah Sully, put a box a Dunkies on it, he does.
More importantly, he just completed his senior year at Boston College and is looking for a new home in the NHL after being drafted by the Blackhawks 24th overall in 2010. Our pal Ryan Lambert recently penned a pretty great Hayes primer for us a day ahead of Hayesamania, which you should absolutely read, but I’ll toss out some of the highlights here.
In his senior year at BC this past season, Hayes scored 27 goals and 65 points in 40 games, which, uh, is pretty damn good, as Boston College finished a ridiculous 16-2-2 for the year (with an admittedly disappointing quarterfinal exit in the Hockey East tournament). Hayes was also named MVP of the Beanpot (a tournament pitting the 4 Boston area colleges against each other, a truly inhumane and barbaric practice).
So is he any good? In a word, yes. The numbers are impressive in their own right, but for those who have seen him play, as Lambert has on several occasions, they don’t seem like they’d be a fluke. Here’s one of my favourite quotes:
Nearly doubling your career output in a single season usually draws out the doubters, but the numbers suggest he wasn’t lucky, and the actual game-watching suggests he wasn’t merely a product of Gaudreau. The improvement came because he realized that at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, he didn’t have to try to finesse his way around guys who were as much as three or four years older than him. That was youthful hubris; he brought so much skill to the table as a freshman, sophomore, and junior, that he thought it was all he needed to rely on.
I love that. Here’s a guy with skill for days, who used his experience in college to realize that he blend some of that imposing physical presence in with his all his other tools to make himself that much better. Think Mark Jankowski when he reaches the weight we all hope he will for his frame and also gains an ability to generate an acceptable level of offense for a first round pick. Yeah.
Why he could be a Flame
1. Well let’s go ahead and start with the obvious: Johnny Gaudreau and Billy Arnold. I haven’t made mention to it yet but if you’re reading this you’re no doubt aware that one of the reasons that Hayes had the incredible season he did is because he manned the right flank on the most dominant line in college hockey the world has ever seen. His linemates, of course, were Arnold and Gaudreau, the two recently inked Flames prospects who are very close to Hayes. Like, footy pajama sleepover close. Troy and Abed close.
that trio set the world on fire for BC last year. It was downright gaudy. 244 points between the three of them, in a season marked by a very obviously deserving Hobey Baker award for Gaudreau. You could argue that Gaudreau’s season was partly due to the great play of Hayes and Arnold supporting him. Conversely, you could suggest Hayes season (he did obliterate his point output by significant margins in his senior year) was a by-product of the all word play of Johnny Hockey.
Or you could reasonably conclude that they’re all terrific hockey players playing next level puck against competition that just simply could not match up.
All three of these theories could be true in part. And while it’s quite obvious that the best Hockey East defense does not stack up against the worst NHL defense, these guys were MILES ahead of the competition that it’s not impossible to think that Gaudreau and Hayes couldn’t click well together on a line in the future. Regardless of what you think of Billy Arnold’s potential as a regular NHLer (it’s dicey at best), Gaudreau is trending in the direction of a star in the making, and having some added comfort in having Hayes around is good for both of them – and the Flames.
2. He can play here. If you clicked on the Chris Kuc article above, you’ll have read that one of the reasons that Hayes is not looking to sign in Chicago – and immediately play for a Stanley Cup contender – is because there’s a rash of quality forwards he’d have to leapfrog to become an everyday NHLer on what is probably one of the best teams to be an everyday NHLer on. But there’s simply too many, especially in the RW position, and while Hayes looks pretty good, he’s not exactly overtaking Patty Kane on the depth chart anytime soon.
To put it lightly, this is not a real concern in Calgary. Sure the prospect shelf is starting to look less bare these days, but the Hawks big club is deep (especially since they no longer have Brandon Bollig. Whatever happened t) and those are some murky waters to be navigating through right now.
Couple that with the fact that the Flames have no natural right wingers outside of David Jones and Brian McGrattan (!!!). There’s a need that desperately needs to be addressed and, if Hayes pans out the way you would expect he could, it’s very likely he’ll be donning the Flaming C within a season or two (maybe less, given that he’s already 22 and very physically mature)
3. The Flames have cash. There’s really nothing to this except to mention that the Hawks are over the cap, so to bring Hayes in, they’d need to clear out space and contracts, even if he’d only be on an entry level deal. This is not a problem for a lot of other teams who would be interested in him, but it’s ESPECIALLY not a problem for the Flames, who have more money than Brian Burke has hair. The money and contracts in Calgary right now are all quite manageable, and there are a lot of moving pieces that can be moved in or shipped out without much difficulty, a “luxury” Chicago does not have. This theoretically gets Hayes up the depth chart and into a Flames jersey that much faster. It’s a win for everyone.
Will he or won’t he?
I don’t know, what am I, a psychic?
The decision is ultimately up to him in a very short few hours here. There are perceived rumours that he has no interest playing in Calgary because of Brian Burke (obviously), but that’s because Jimmy Hayes was a Leafs pick who Burke discarded for a draft pick which he then squandered (obviously), but that’s mostly a joke invented by Hawks fans that grew longer wings than anyone imagined it could have. Even Hayes’ agent went on record and saying that it’s not an issue (that was in reference to Kevin not signing in Chicago because Stan Bowman traded Jimmy to Florida, which is the same damn thing).
If you’re natural inclination is to assume he won’t come here because it’s Calgary and we never get nice things, well that’s a strong play that is backed up by a lot of history I’d rather not re-hash right now. But look around: The Flames now boast a roster that includes Gaudreau, Sam Bennett, Sean Monahan, and an ever better TJ Brodie. There are finally some haves on this squad, and those attract more haves (see: Kevin Love and the Cleveland Cavaliers).
Teams will make their pitch, and you can assume Brad Treliving will be in there giving it the ol’ college try. New York loves signing college free agents, and his brother plays in Florida, if that means anything to you. Boston would also make sense for him seeing as he’s the hometown kid who played down the road from the Gahdens (Boston accents are my favourite), but I think if Hayes’ desire is to hit the NHL running, Calgary is the most logical place for him to start.