Kevin Hayes can see the writing on the wall

The 31-year-old forward knows that his future is probably not in Philadelphia.

Kevin Hayes can see the writing on the wall
Photo Credit: Heather Barry

This will probably end up being the last season for a lot of players as members of the Philadelphia Flyers. Ever since the firing of general manager Chuck Fletcher and the proposed re-structuring of the front office a couple months ago, the message has been clear: The team is now prepared to go through the painful task of rebuilding.

We don't know exactly what that will fully entail just yet – mainly since the management change was made after the NHL trade deadline so we haven't seen any actual actions taken other than Fletcher getting booted out – but that time will eventually come. Whether it is at the draft this June or they pull off one of the rare trades during the playoffs between two non-playoff teams, we should be seeing some moves take place in the near future.

One player in particular that was involved in trade rumors even when Fletcher was still in charge, is Kevin Hayes. With the new regime coming in, it only increases the chances of him calling another city home next season and he appears to have made peace with it.

"I'm turning 31. I picked up the message that was sent months ago," Hayes said during his exit interview on Friday. "I'm okay with it. It's their decision. I don't want to say I'm suited for a contender, because I think I'm suited for anyone, to be honest. Yeah. we'll see how that unfolds. Their decision has probably already been made and we don't know it yet. I'm sure I'll find out around the draft.

"I don't know if they want a guy making the money that I'm making, playing nine to 10 minutes a night. I don't make those decisions, they do. I'm sure they have to make them pretty quickly. The draft is coming up."

Hayes is under contract for three more seasons with a cap hit of $7.14 million – which might prove difficult to move in a straight-sell transaction. There should be plenty of teams that want an offensively-charged forward that can play at center or on the wing and has appeared in the playoffs for three different organizations.

Acquiring a player like that could be seen as the real we're done rebuilding move for a team that has been wanting to take that step after gathering dozens of prospects (a team like the Columbus Blue Jackets). But for Hayes, it was a year of two seasons.

"It's tough when you're getting 22 minutes a night and leading the team in points, and then you get back from the All-Star break and you're playing eight minutes a night and playing with different players," he said. "But like I said, it is what it is. They want to go younger here if they want to win. That's how you win in this league, you have to rebuild and that's what they're in now.

"As much as I would love to stay and help out, I have no idea if that is going to be the case."

Hayes did have a decreased role when he returned from sunny Florida this year, but not by that much. What led him to being an All-Star was averaging 18:02 TOI a game and scoring 15 goals and 45 points in the 50 games prior to the break. Someone had to go from this team and he was leading the charge. But, after he returned it wasn't just eight minutes a night for him. He averaged 16:48 TOI in those 31 remaining games, but his scoring plummeted to just three goals and nine points.

We are sure that it felt like his hockey world was crumbling around him not getting the same exact opportunity to help this team win hockey games, but it was realistically by a minuscule amount.

One clear reason why his minutes decreased was the blossoming and maturing of young talents on the roster, as head coach John Tortorella handed them the chance to really show that they should be considered a part of the Flyers' future. Even Hayes recognizes that himself and acknowledges how well some players like Noah Cates and Owen Tippett did this year with that opportunity.

"It's awesome. It's where you go from being a relied-upon player, to not really being relied on, but you get to watch some of your closest buddies who are young," the veteran forward said. "I've been in that situation, where you're young and not playing a lot, then all of a sudden I'm leading the team in minutes and I was 25 years old. It was a blast.

"And it's awesome to see those guys do that. I got to know a lot of those young guys a lot more this year. Catesy, Tipp; they were both pretty new last year. Catesy came at the end of the year and Tipp got traded. This year I tried to focus on helping them as much as I could – I'm not saying my help led them to their season at all, I promise you that. But it is awesome to see them really come out of their shell at the end of the season and dominate, which is what they did."

Those two players in particular are probably going to be at the top of next year's lineup and deservingly so. Whether Hayes is behind them come October, is still to be seen.