So... there may have been a few out there who thought that maybe Kevin Hayes would return to New York as a free agent just months after being traded to the Winnipeg Jets as a Trade Deadline rental. That of course will no longer happen, given that he has agreed to terms with the Philadelphia Flyers on a seven year, $50M deal
The duration and annual value were both impressive for a guy who probably could be considered an above average 2nd line center. He plays in all situations, has good size and strength and when he's on, he can be hard to handle. Still, he's not in the elite, and such is the market that a guy like Hayes can earn a seven year contract at over $7M per year.
What's more important than what the Flyers gave Hayes, is what it means for Chris Kreider and the Rangers. The 28 year old winger becomes a UFA himself next season, and the Rangers are faced with the choice of an expensive extension that will impact the team for some time, or trade him now and get some value in return.
Complicating matters is the relatively paucity of scoring on the Rangers. The 28 goals that Kreider put up last year was second only to the 30 that Mika Zibanejad registered. The only Ranger to break twenty goals was Pavel Buchnevich who put in 21, though the since departed Hayes and Zuccarello may have gotten close if they had been both healthy, and retained for the final month or so of the season.
Part of the challenge is that they have $25.2M tied up for the next two years with contracts to Henrik Lundqvist ($8.5), Kevin Shattenkirk ($6.65), Marc Staal ($5.7) and Brendan Smith ($4.35). Buyouts would help to some extent, but would still carry a hit over the next four years, albeit at a lesser value. Such is the case for the buyout of Dan Girardi, who carries $3.6M of dead cap space this season and a further $1.1M for the following three years.
For example, if Shattenkirk was to be bought out, he'd register a $1.483M hit for three of the next four seasons, though next year would be a sizable $6.083M. Marc Staal would be a little more evenly spread out, with this year account for $2.9M, $3.7M next season and $1.2M in each of the latter two years.
As it stands right now, the Rangers will need to decide whether to resign RFAs Pavel Buchnevich, Tony DeAngelo, Brendan Lemieux, Fredrik Claesson as well as Vinni Lettieri. And of course there's signing the newly acquired Jacob Trouba to a lengthy deal.
In 2020-21 they'll also have to look at the expansion draft with Seattle coming in, as well as new contracts for Ryan Strome, Jimmy Vesey, Brett Howden, Libor Hajek, Alexandar Georgiev and Cristoval Nieves, with Howden, Hajek and Georgiev all coming off of entry level contracts and likely looking at big raises.
Bottom line, is that the Rangers can probably make it work to resign Kreider to something in the realm of what Hayes just earned, but it'll come at a cost to the overall team's flexibility and will come at a time when Kreider is 29 and perhaps a riskier proposition to such a lengthy commitment.