“By gaining the rights to Kevin at this time, it provides us with an opportunity to negotiate with him prior to July 1, when he is due to become an unrestricted free agent,” Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher said.
Hayes, a 27-year-old center, is expected to generate plenty of interest on the free-agent market.
He played 71 games between the New York Rangers and the Jets last season, with 19 goals and 36 assists. He had 13 points in 20 games for the Jets after the Rangers sent him to Winnipeg on Feb. 25 for Brendan Lemieux, Winnipeg’s first-round pick in the 2019 NHL draft and a fourth-round (conditional) pick in 2022. He had two goals and an assist in six playoff games for Winnipeg, which was eliminated in six games by the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the playoffs.
The trade could reunite Hayes with former Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, who was hired by the Flyers after the season. Until his trade to the Jets, Vigneault was the only coach Hayes had played for in his five years in the NHL.