VOORHEES – While Nolan Patrick has made progress in his first two seasons in the NHL, getting a proven veteran such as Kevin Hayes onto the Flyers’ roster would certainly provide a lift at second-line center.
The Flyers pulled off a trade with the Winnipeg Jets to secure the negotiating rights to the potential unrestricted free-agent pivotman in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick.
If general manager Chuck Fletcher can get Hayes to put pen to paper on a contract, it would give the Flyers much more depth in the middle.
“There’s nothing to announce at this point,’’ Fletcher said at a Monday press briefing at the Skate Zone. “We’ve had some good preliminary conversations with Kevin and his representation. This week I expect to follow up with Kevin.’’
Should there be cause for optimism?
“I don’t know how to characterize it other than we’ve had good conversations and we’re hopeful we can find a way to make something work.’’
Fletcher said Hayes is “open-minded’’ to signing with the Flyers but also added that he is only a few weeks away from hitting the open market on July 1.
“That’s a nice status to attain in this league,’’ Fletcher said. “So certainly he’s earned that right and we’re respectful of that. Obviously we have strong interest in him.’’
Fletcher said he never made a pre-emptive trade like this before during his nine-year tenure as GM of the Minnesota Wild.
“In this case, there’s not a lot of centermen in the market place,’’ the GM said. “He’s a quality player, he plays a strong 200-foot game and he’s a guy who can play both specialty teams.’’
There’s also the connection with new Flyers’ coach Alain Vigneault. The two spent four years together with the New York Rangers, including a run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014.
“It made sense to get ahead of it,’’ Fletcher said. “Certainly we felt if we had a couple extra weeks to speak to him and present our case, it would be better.
“We feel this gives us the best chance of landing him and again there are no guarantees. It may work and it may not work.’’
As for Patrick, who probably would be pushed down to third-line center if Hayes signs on, there is still cause for optimism, according to Fletcher.
“What I see with Nolan Patrick, I was very impressed,’’ Fletcher said. “I thought he had a strong second half. He’s a mature player in terms of his 200-foot game for a kid that’s just 20 years old. He plays well away from the puck.
“Trying to sign Kevin Hayes really has nothing to do with Nolan Patrick. We are just trying to improve our team and improve our depth.’’
>Restricted free agents update
Fletcher has a number of contracts to work out with his restricted free agents, including defensemen Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim, winger Travis Konecny, plus center Scott Laughton.
He’s got a lot of salary cap room but there’s always an element of bargaining involved in these situations.
“It’s an interesting market, I will say that,’’ Fletcher said. “Looking around the league, there’s been very few signings to date.
“It seems like that market is becoming a little more aggressively priced. We’ll meet with some agents at the draft and try to get together and talk. My sense is everybody is kind of waiting for someone else to do something.’’
Fletcher said he’s talked about long-term and short-term deals with both Provorov and Konecny.
The NHL still hasn’t announced next season’s salary cap, estimated to be in the $82-83-million range.
“We still have more cap space than most teams,’’ Fletcher pointed out. “We feel we’ll be able to add from outside the organization but certainly re-signing the RFAs is our priority.’’
>Backup goalie position wide open
The past season ended with the Flyers uncertain about who will back up Carter Hart in goal next season.
Both Brian Elliott and Cam Talbot are potential unrestricted free agents but there seems to be no indication either one is a strong candidate.
As for the oft-injured Michal Neuvirth, there doesn’t appear to be any interest in offering him a new contract.
Have the Flyers moved on from Elliott and Talbot?
“That’s not necessarily the case,’’ Fletcher said. “I think like anything, you put lists together and you have priorities. You go about it. There’s a lot of teams competing for similar players throughout the league. We have our list and we know how we rate players. We’ll see what we are able to put together.’’