1. Kevin Hayes
Finding another impactful centerman to add their second or third line is arguably the Flyers biggest need going into the offseason and Kevin Hayes would be a solid choice to fill that void.
The soon to be 27-year-old forward posted 55 points (19 Goals, 36 Assist) in 71 games with the New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets last season. He’s had just one year with a point total below 40 and has done most of his damage while play was even. I’d have to assume the Flyers would want more power-play production out of their potential Top-6 centerman, but you take what you can get on the free agent market.
As I previously mentioned, Fletcher wants his centers to have a two-way impact, and Hayes most definitely brings that. He tied fifth on the Rangers in shorthanded Time on Ice while ranking ninth in Winnipeg as well. Hayes also scored at least one point in four of the five years he’s been in the NHL when his team was down a man, going as far as netting seven shorthanded points in the 2016-17 season. Philadelphia hasn’t had a guy who can consistently score on the penalty-kill since Mike Richards, and Hayes can bring that to the table. .
One knock on his game is that he doesn’t play with a whole lot of speed. Vigneault likes his teams to play with speed and even went as far as saying that the Flyers have a “good skating and skilled team that can play at a high tempo.” I wouldn’t say Hayes can add to that sentiment, but he did play for Vigneault from 2014-17, which could make him somewhat of an exception.
Hayes’ possession numbers haven’t been the best, either. The big-bodied center has had more seasons with a Corsi (CF%) and Fenwick-For (FF%) percentage below 50% than above, meaning the opposition possesses the puck more when he’s on the ice. He still found ways to put his name on the scoresheet, though, and that’s ultimately what matters most.
Outside of Duchene, Hayes is the best free agent center option on the market. Guys like Ryan Dzingel and Brock Nelson just aren’t very impressive to me, so if Fletcher does decide to go the free agent route, Hayes should be the choice unless the price tag is deemed too high.