Kevin Hayes avoids arbitration, signs two-year deal with Rangers

Kevin Hayes and the New York Rangers salary arbitration appointment on July 27 is officially cancelled. The two sides came to an agreement on Friday. First reported by NHL pundit Aaron Ward, Hayes signed a two-year, $5.2-million contract keeping him as an RFA at the end of the deal.

In two seasons with the Rangers, Hayes has 31 goals, 81 points in 158 NHL regular season games. After a strong rookie season with 49 points in 79 games, Hayes had a bumpy second second with New York.

Appearing to be in the infamous sophomore slump, Hayes was healthy scratched by Alain Vignaultduring the regular season. In December 2015, Vignault had some harsh words for Hayes in the New York Post:

“In Kevin’s case, I think we made it clear our expectations about him and what we felt he could do were very high,” Vigneault said. “Obviously, he hasn’t lived up to that.
“Did we overestimate his possibilities? I don’t know, time will tell. But I do know that what I’m seeing now, and what we’re seeing now, is not good enough.

“I think we all have our tipping points, and I think Kevin has had an extra-long leash, especially considering [center Derek Stepan] was out for quite some time,” Vigneault said. “But there’s just nothing going on. At the end of the day, we’re at the point now where we have to make some decisions in the best interests of the team.”

Against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, Hayes found himself in the press box for Games 4 and 5 in the Rangers series loss.

Just looking at Vigneault’s critique from the season and his decision to bench Hayes in the final two playoff games, it was probably best Hayes avoided the ‘this why you suck’ arbitration process and get a deal done ahead of time.

Hayes, 24, was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round, 24th overall in the 2010 draft. After playing all four years at Boston College, the forward worked the CBA as he was allowed to do and elected not to sign with the Blackhawks. The Rangers won the Hayes sweepstakes signing him to a two-year contract worth a total value of $7.5-million. According to General Fananger, that first contract carried $5.7-million in total performance bonuses.

With all their primary RFA targets locked up, the Rangers have about $3.4-million in cap flexibility. Per Cap Friendly, the team has a secondary buyout period of 48 hours opening in three days from July 22, should they wish to buyout any existing contracts.