This year has been very disappointing for the Philadelphia Flyers and their fans to say the least. Amongst the more surprising, and possibly saddest, of these disappointments is the failure of Kevin Hayes and new head coach John Tortorella to click together.
This was surprising because Hayes was known for being a gritty, “give it his all” kind of player. You would’ve thought that a guy who battled through injuries and tragedy and had endeared himself to fans and teammates would’ve been one of Tortorella’s go-to guys. It didn’t happen.
First, he was benched in a game with Travis Konency early in the season. Then, after the Flyers lost 10 games in a row and were struggling, he was a healthy scratch against the Rangers. Tortorella was hoping to get Hayes to become a stronger version of himself, but Hayes didn’t see it that way. Hayes got on a hot streak to kick off the new year, was named to his first ever NHL All-Star game and then got really cold. For a long time, he pretty much disappeared. The trade deadline came and went, and he remained a Flyer. At the end of the year, he talked about how much he loves Philadelphia and the fans, but is pretty much resigned to the fact that he will be gone during this offseason.
Just 750 miles away, the Chicago Blackhawks are dealing with some personnel issues of their own. Jonathan Toews, long a foundational piece of the franchise, is a free agent to be. The 35 year old former captain is a shell of what he used to be. He last scored 30 goals before anyone heard of COVID. Injuries have limited his playing time on ice. Last year he scored 15 goals with 31 points.
More importantly, Chicago was one of the worst teams this past season. Toews is at a point in his career where he will not want to stick around for a rebuild. His buddy, Patrick Kane, was traded at the deadline. Outside of winning the Connor Bedard Sweepstakes, the future looks pretty grim for Chitown right now. Toews could sign on with another team but may retire. Once thing is for sure, his time as a Blackhawk is pretty much over.
So, what does this have to do with Hayes? Well, quite a lot. Bedard is going to Chicago. After Toews, the top two centers for the Blackhawks are Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Johnson. Athanasiou has two years left on his deal and will be 30 when it is over. Johnson is 32 and will be a free agent next year as will be third line center Jason Dickinson. Translation: Chicago needs a solid center.
The Blackhawks have close to $35 million in cap space for next season. Hayes’s contract is a shade over $7.1 million and will run for three more years. Hayes is also a respected veteran forward whose leadership would be welcomed on a team trying to get younger and back to their glory days. Bedard is young, but can’t shoulder the burden for the team all by himself. He would need a skilled veteran forward that could act as a mentor.
What could the Flyers gets for Hayes from Chicago? The Blackhawks have two first round picks in every draft from this year through 2025. This year, in addition to the first overall, they have the 19th overall pick. They have four second rounders this year as well as two in the second round in 2024 and 25. That’s a lot of capital they can use to trade for someone.
I’m not sure anyone would give a first round pick for Kevin Hayes, but it is possible. Maybe Hayes and the 22nd pick for Chicago’s 19th pick and one of their second rounders. It might be nice to see if they would take Tony DeAngelo too for another pick.
It would also be nice to see if the Flyers could pry one of Chicago’s top prospects. Kevin Korchinski or Lukas Reichel would make a fine addition to our growing youth movement. I don’t know if the Hawks would part with last year’s seventh overall pick in Korchinski. Reichel’s had some NHL experience, scoring seven goals and eight assists in 23 games this year. Gavin Hayes, a third round pick last year, may be a more likely trade candidate having scored 41 goals this year as a 19 year old in the OHL.
Regardless of whether or not Toews retires or goes as a free agent, the Blackhawks need a center. The Flyers have one waiting. We shouldn’t be desperate and sell him off at a garage sale type discount. Instead, we should focus on the value that he brings to a team. Philly and the Windy City could make great trade partners here.