It’s feels odd we’re already talking about trading soon-to-be 31-year-old Kevin Hayes, who is the current all-star on the Flyers’ roster and who’s firing at just shy of a point-per-game pace that could easily set new career highs in goals and points by season’s end, but there are quite a few factors that could signal the end of the Hayes era in Philly, including his expensive contract and the on-again, off-again butting of heads with head coach John Tortorella.
Hayes does have a 12-team no-trade list that he will have to submit before getting dealt, and those teams haven’t been made public as of this writing, so we’ll look at reasonable teams that could be dance partners in a trade that he could also fit on, but may or may not ultimately get nixed by Hayes himself.
Number 5: Buffalo Sabres
For the first time in almost two decades, it feels like the Sabres are finally trending in the right direction. Their move out of the basement of the NHL in favor of being a potential bubble team could entice the front office to actually make a few worthwhile additions to the roster in the offseason. They’re still a bit weak down the middle outside of Tage Thompson, so someone like Hayes could pique their interest for middle-six center help. Would Hayes shut this one down? It’s possible, but if he deems there to be enough promise in the not-too-distant future, maybe he’ll accept a deal to a team that may be better positioned than the Flyers.
Number 4: Columbus Blue Jackets
If the Flyers won’t bring friends of Kevin Hayes to Philly, maybe Hayes chooses to go play with his friends elsewhere. The Flyers refused to sign Johnny Gaudreau last offseason and he ultimately ended up signing with the Blue Jackets. Columbus has been completely derailed because of injuries this season and could look to make a serious stabilizing upgrade or two over the summer to prevent this kind of collapse again. The Blue Jackets and Flyers have always been willing trade partners, so if Hayes OKs this one, there is more than likely a deal to be had.
Number 3: Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes are among the elite teams in the NHL these days, but their middle six centers Jordan Staal and Paul Stastny are 34 and 37 respectively and both are on expiring contracts. The pool of potential list of names on the free agent center market isn’t very robust, so if the Hurricanes deem that Hayes is the best available middle six center out there even if it’s via trade, it may just come to fruition. The Flyers and Hurricanes haven’t made a trade since the Brian Boucher deal back in 2013, but the matching desperation of the Flyers have to shed Hayes and his contract and the Hurricanes to reinforce their center depth could open the door for any trade partner, regardless of rivalry.
Number 2: Colorado Avalanche
It feels very unlikely that Hayes gets moved at the trade deadline in March simply because his contract is so massive that it’s a huge ask for most teams to clear that kind of space during the season, but the Avalanche have a repeat effort to make in the playoffs and a roster composed of Ritz cracker-esque injury concerns. The cap gymnastics are more than likely still too great for a deadline day deal, but they, much like the Hurricanes, could also seek out the market for help at center during the offseason. Hayes’ near point-per-game status during the 2022-23 season could help sell him to a top team like the Avalanche, and the recent success of the club could entice Hayes to waive to go out west again.
Number 1: Boston Bruins
Boston always felt like the natural spot for Hayes to land in as the hometown hero and to fill the potential hole at center the Bruins could deal with. Both Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, the team’s first and second line centers, are now in their late 30’s and on expiring contracts. If one or both choose to finally hang up the skates, the Bruins will rise to the top of the competitive teams looking for a top six center. It’s a team Hayes will undoubtedly waive his NTC to go to and they could afford to eat a vast majority of not all of his remaining cap. It’s definitely a best case scenario, but it could also be a very real possibility and a lucky break for the Flyers, something they don’t get very many of these days.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com