10. Kevin Hayes (87.5pts)
The case for 27-year old Kevin Hayes to come to the Minnesota Wild is a curious one. The centerman from Boston and Boston College was acquired by the Winnipeg Jets from the New York Rangers to help bolster the Jets depth and scoring ability to try to make a run through the seemingly weak Central Division. The Jets got stonewalled by a Blues goalie (join the club 2016-2017 Wild) and could not slow down Jaden Schwartz. In the 20 games Hayes played for Winnipeg he scored 13 points leading to a 0.65/PPG, compared to the 51 games in New York 42 points and a 0.82/PPG. In the scheme of things, it’s likely because his role from New York to Winnipeg diminished, averaging 19:27 of ice time for the Rangers and 15:17 ice time in The Peg.
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The other major complication for Kevin Hayes joining the Wild is that he would be joining a roster that includes 6 centers already: Mikko Koivu, Eric Staal, Joel Eriksson Ek, Luke Kunin, Nico Strum, and Victor Rask. The sell would be that he would likely become the #1 center, as Mikko (should) adopt a similar role to what Joe Thornton is doing in San Jose, Eric Staal is a solid #2 and doesn’t exactly have the speed necessary for a #1, and Ek, Kunin, and Rask could all play on the wing. I’m unsure if Strum will start the season with Minnesota or Iowa. Recently, the Minnesota Wild have often displaced centers and set them on the wing (Charlie Coyle) to maximize talent and ability on lines, so theoretically Hayes could be rotated through the positions with whatever is best for the Wild.
At 6’5″ and 216lbs, Kevin Hayes knows how to use his frame and power to bully his way into scoring spaces for himself and for his line-mates. His scouting report affirms: “Hayes owns outstanding size and offensive ability. He can play all three forward positions and has natural scoring instincts. Complements skilled line-mates very well. Needs to use his size with greater consistency to thrive at the highest level, especially in terms of physicality. Must also continue to work on his defense and face-off skills. Long Range Potential: Big, talented forward with a little upside.”
Kevin Hayes has a fairly strong upside. He’s one of the younger guys available, can help mentor and refine Jordan Greenway’s game, and could be open to several possibilities, unlike another 27-year old that’s available. It is also incredible that he can play on either wing or through the middle. He could use his large body as a screen for the power play, help quarterback the unit by the hash marks, or be a fourth forward and help feed Matt Dumba one-timers. He’s also wrapping up a season where he posted a career high in total points and assists while also posting an above-average number for goals scored last season.
Hayes will certainly command a larger contract. His previous contract was one-year in length, worth $5.175M. Paul Fenton’s offer to Hayes would likely be 4 to 5 years in length with an AAV of $6.25M to $7M, and I think he’s worth it. Kevin Hayes could help build the Wild into serious contenders. Put him on the first line with Parise and Zucker (if he’s still with the team, the growing belief is that he will be traded during the offseason, a mistake in my opinion), and he could use the body to help create space for the speedsters. Put him with Eric Staal, and he could reignite his scoring ability. He’s versatile and valuable
There’s part 2. Sorry again for the delay. If you think Kevin Hayes, Jordan Eberle, and/or Alex Chiasson are mis-ranked let me know. The big question of the day: Should the Wild move Jason Zucker? Lastly, check in soon for part 3 of UFAs the Wild should sign to see who cracks the top 10.