Kevin Hayes knows exactly the situation that he is in right now. A rebuilding Flyers team is putting more of a focus on younger players and is likely shipping out those who don’t fit the plan.
Despite one of the best statistical seasons of his career, Hayes never seemed to mesh well with John Tortorella. The two played things off and declined to talk about any friction between the two sides.
Hayes was the Flyers’ lone All-Star this season. He posted his highest goal total (18) since his first season in Philadelphia (23). His 36 assists were a career high and his 54 points were just shy of the 55 he set between the Rangers and Jets in the 2018-19 season.
However, he was benched on not just one again, but two. A message was sent as him and Travis Konecny sat during the final period of the Flyers’ shutout loss to the Sharks in October. Hayes would find himself scratched once again two months later.
He was also moved from center to wing and saw his ice time dip throughout the last few months of the season.
"“Kevin and I have had many conversations, many honest conversations about where we’re going here as an organization,” Tortorella said at the beginning of April in regard to coaching players knowing that know they won’t be here long term. “And where’s he’s at in this organization, same thing with James. They’re both pros, they’re both very mature. They can understand it, they don’t have to like, but I hope they respect what I’m trying to do.”"
When Hayes spoke during the Flyers player exit interviews, he sounded like someone that knew his time was up in Philadelphia. He’s accepted the fact that the team wants to get younger and is going to be giving those players more ice time.
"“I picked up the message that was sent months ago. 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. We’ll see how that unfolds. Their decisions have probably already been made. We don’t know them yet. I’m sureI’ll find out around the draft.”"
The draft is in a little over a month, set for June 28-29. So it could be a few weeks before any real traction on a possible Hayes deal comes. The Flyers will almost certainly have to retain a significant amount of his 7M cap hit in order to move him. But for a team that could also use draft picks for now and the future, it’s something they may have to deal with.
But for Hayes, there is some level of frustration with what has transpired. There’s not much he can do about it, but it is tough to go through.
"“It’s tough when you’re getting 22 minutes a night and leading the team in points, and then you wake up, you get back from All-Star break, and you’re playing eight minutes a night and playing with different players. Like I said, it is what it is. They need to go younger here if they want to win. That’s how you win inthis league, you got to rebuild, and that’s what they’re in now."
Hayes did show a happiness for what those younger players have done. Those younger players also showed an appreciation for what Hayes has meant to them as well. He’s long been a beloved part of the locker room since he signed in 2019.
He had also become quite the figure amongst the fanbase as well, something he cherished and gave right back as well.
"“This fan base is one of the best in all sports. I came here not knowing much about Philadelphia as a city. I lived on the East Coast my whole life, but I’ve never really been to Philly before. It’s been amazing. I love where live. I love the food here. I love the people here. You guys have been pretty good. As a professional athlete, you want to play for a city that kind of lives and dies by sports.”"
Things haven’t been easy the last few years as the Flyers have failed to get back to where they were at the end of the 2019-20 season. They were on a roll to finish that season, got the top seed in the bubble playoffs, and then lost in the second round. It has been trouble ever since.
It’s not going to take a fire sale to get this team back into a contending status. But it is going to take sending players like Hayes elsewhere in order to keep getting younger.
"“Younger guys are playing. I don’t know if they want a guy that’s making the money that I’m making playing 9-10 minutes a night. I don’t make those decisions – they do, and I’m sure they have to make them pretty quickly.”"