Okay, gang. It happened. Chuck Fletcher made his first move of the off-season, and it might be a big one? Technically he’s only just picked up the right to negotiate with Kevin Hayes three weeks early, but hey, it’s something. Especially if he signs.
And that signing would be a big deal too! The Flyers needed to find a way to pick up a second line center, and Hayes would fit into that role pretty neatly. But what does it mean for the rest of the roster? And how does it affect the Flyers’ ability to fill their other forward vacancy at 3RW? There are still a lot of moving parts, here, but we’re in a spot where we can at least feel comfortable making some educated guesses. Let’s dig in.
Just a quick note before we go any further, for the sake of ease, we’re going to be pretty much using the values Evolving-Hockey’s model came up with as the most probable contract outcomes for our thought experiment, here. Even though there are some things we could quibble about (such as the fact that it has it has both Travis Konecny and Travis Sanheim signing bridge deals rather than being locked up long-term), but this just makes things move a little smoother. And, if you’re curious, you can have a look at all of the values they came up with here.
So, let’s assume Hayes signs. That’s the first thing. Because it isn’t guaranteed, even though the Flyers likely had to feel pretty good about those chances, if they were willing to give up an asset for his rights. So let’s assume he does indeed become a Flyer. That would mean the forward lines will look something like this:
Giroux – Couturier – Konecny
Lindblom – Hayes – Voracek
van Riemsdyk – Patrick - ????
Raffl – Laughton – Hartman
You could shuffle those around as you like to get some different looks, or as chemistry does or doesn’t develop, but that’s more or less what we’ve got. Some fun pieces to note are that you’re able to reunite that top line from two seasons ago, to see if they can still tap into that same magic, and also the fact that it would push Nolan Patrick down to 3C, so you can shelter him a little bit, or give him a bit more space to work with to do his thing (however you want to spin it). But the other piece is that the 3RW vacancy still remains an open question.
The easiest (and probably cheapest) way to fill that would be internally, that is, bringing up one of Nicolas Aube-Kubel or Justin Bailey from the Phantoms and giving one of them a full time NHL job. This writer would prefer the former, based on his skill set, but maybe that’s a longer conversation for another day. But the point is, this would be their easiest move.
But what if the front office wanted to do more work? What if they do want to go out and sign a winger? Will they have room to do it?
Well, they won’t be able to pull off getting Artemi Panarin or Jeff Skinner without shedding a bigger contract or something, but they still might be able to get more of a middle tier player. Because if we assume that all of the RFAs get what Evolving-Hockey are predicting (or at least close to it), they sign Cam Talbot for around $3 million in AAV (which is between what Brian Elliott was getting and what he was making in Edmonton), and Hayes signs for somewhere between $6.5 million and $7 million in AAV (EH have him projected to make just below $6 million a year on a six year deal, but that was estimated before Brock Nelson signed a 6x6 deal, so it’s safe to assume Hayes will require a bit more than that), this gives the Flyers around $5 - 5.5 million to play with. This still isn’t an insignificant amount, but it’s not enough for them to target another bigger name. And, we feel compelled to note that just because you have to money, it doesn’t mean you have to use it all and spend all the way to that cap. There’s that too.
So, let’s wrap this up. What’s the moral of the story? If the Flyers are able to sign Hayes, it addresses an immediate need for the team, and adds some strength to the forward corps. But he’s going to cost a significant price, and while it doesn’t automatically mean the Flyers are done for the off-season, the money they have to work with limits their options some. So it will be interesting to see how they make it work.