Unfortunately, the Flyers were able to trade Hayes to the Blues, for a sixth-round pick. While trying to withhold judgment, this move reeks of panic, and like the proposed Sanheim deal, it is a head-scratcher. It has been documented that Hayes and Tortorella were not getting along, and it was something easily predicted. That said, just how bad was this situation? Even if we imagine the worst, why did the trade have to happen now? What do the Flyers gain by rushing this?
Briere said the key to the deal was not taking a contract back. But this is really a matter of perspective. They did part ways with Hayes, they did lose half of his contract. But what they retained is $3.5M which will be on their cap for the next three years.
Perhaps there is some grand free agent plan I am missing, like a large extension for Morgan Frost, but moving Hayes with that kind of salary retention doesn’t help the Flyers much. Whatever Hayes’ faults may be, he is undoubtedly worth more than a sixth-round pick, especially with the Flyers holding 50% of his salary.
Looking at it another way, if the Blues decide to trade Hayes, and keep 25% of his salary (about 1.8 million) what do you think they could get at the trade deadline for him? If a team like Tampa Bay, or Colorado has an injury, what would they give up for Hayes, at 1.8 million per season? Hayes is a steal at that price. A top-tier prospect and a first-rounder would be the floor in my estimation.
The question is why the urgency on a deal that barely moves the needle for the Flyers’ rebuild, where they lose one of their best players? It seems a deal this bad could be struck at any time with virtually any team that needed help at center. Given the subsequent moves with DeAngelo set to be moved, the Flyers still do not have a cap room. If clearing the decks of cap space is important, should other players be on the block? Maybe the team should have looked to have shopped Scott Laughton and his $3M a year cap hit, where a sixth-round pick, while still low, but closer to the players value. Briere’s story is not adding up.
The elephant in the room is the Hayes – Tortorella feud. I am not sure how bad things were, I have no insight into what was done to bring the temperature down, but if things were bad between coach and player, shouldn’t the GM step in to broker peace and do what was best for the organization? Again, there could be some plan that is yet to reveal itself, but I am not yet seeing it.
The Flyers and Briere are trying to clean house, that is evident, but they should be doing so with the primary objective being to make the franchise competitive as quickly as possible. Giving away cornerstone players for cap space is not the way to do it. Has the Gostisbehere trade taught them nothing?
In the end, moving Hayes makes the Flyers worse, and contributes very little to the rebuild. Hayes could have been a chip that could have accelerated the Flyers’ rebuild, given the right circumstance. Briere decided to go aggressive and force the issue. Time will tell if this was the right approach, but with the 2023- 2024 season already looking down, it seems that there would have been a better opportunity to unload Hayes. Briere needs less panic and more patience to find the fastest path the competitive hockey.