After a couple grueling seasons, it appeared that Hayes has finally re-found himself and his game on a not-so-good Flyers team. But apparently, beyond the games, there has been a butting of heads between the coach and the player.
On Monday morning’s edition of the “32 Thoughts” podcast, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman unraveled the reason why Hayes was a healthy scratch and began speculating about what the Flyers might end up doing with Kevin Hayes and the three years remaining on his contract next summer.
“As for Kevin Hayes,” Friedman began, “this is a guy on pace for 76 points. Now, I’ve heard that this has been brewing. I’ve heard that Tortorella has told Hayes before that he doesn’t like the way that he plays without the puck all the time, and that they were headed in this direction if this didn’t get better. So I don’t think this comes as an enormous surprise to anyone around the organization, and possibly not even Hayes himself.
“But I still think when you look at it when the guy is on pace for 76 points and leading your team in scoring — there’s something about that happening that throws you for a loop. I’m sure in Tortorella’s eyes, he’s sitting there and saying ‘I warned you, I warned you, and it didn’t get better.’ And I’m sure Hayes is saying ‘Look, I’m scoring. This team isn’t winning games. How does this help the team?’ And I’m sure he’s like any other player and does not want to be benched.”
Friedman then decided to get into the muck of speculating what this organization is going to do next with some context clues. The reporter mentioned that the salary bonuses laid out in his contract are almost entirely paid out — with just $1.25 million bonuses due at the start of the 2024-25 and 2025-26 season.
That means, a potential buyout is a whole lot easier and less messy with most of the remaining years in straight salary.
“I have to tell you,” Friedman continued, “I can’t help but look at this contract and say ‘Is this going to be a buyout at the end of the year?’”
If the Flyers go ahead and buy out the three years remaining on Hayes’s contract that comes at a regular cap hit of $7.14 million, the breakdown of cap hits will look like this:
2023-24 — $2,253,968
2024-25 — $4,753,968
2025-26 — $4,753,968
2026-27 — $1,611,111
2027-28 — $1,611,111
2028-29 — $1,611,111
That is a lengthy penalty to get rid of a player that might just lead the entire team in points at the end of the season. We’re just assuming that it would be the first time ever that an NHL team bought out their leading scorer, but I guess weirder things have happened.
Especially if you think of the juicy context of professional relationships that might just not end up working.
“John Tortorella is in year one of how many? If this is a marriage that is not going to work, then maybe this is the solution; where he gets bought out and starts somewhere else. I can’t help but wonder if that is what the future is here,” Friedman added.
This is an operatic drama just waiting to happen. Tortorella is certainly higher in the organizational depth chart than Hayes, so it all just depends if the coach has enough power to persuade GM Chuck Fletcher to pull the trigger and buy Hayes out. It is going to be a long six months if all of this continues.