It took awhile but the Flyers finally got their man.
More than two weeks after acquiring the contract negotiating rights to center Kevin Hayes from the Winnipeg Jets, the Flyers were able to sign the potential unrestricted free agent on Wednesday.
The contract calls for a total of $50 million over seven years, or $7.14 million per season.
But, at closer look, there was more than just money involved here.
After all, Hayes could have waited until the free agency signing period opened on July 1 and probably gotten the same amount of money – or more – from a number of other teams.
It turns out the fact that Hayes previously played four seasons (2014-18) under Alain Vigneault while with the New York Rangers played a significant factor as well.
When a “comfort level’’ is high, a player is always going to give that new team careful consideration.
“That was a huge factor in the decision,’’ Hayes said during a Wednesday media conference call.
“It’s always tough when you go to a new team and you don’t know how you’re going to fit in with the new coach. But playing under ‘AV’ for four years, we had a great relationship on and off the ice.
“He demands hard work and if you play the right way, he’ll let you play freely offensively. I’m really comfortable with him. It made the decision a lot easier.’’
From his perspective, general manager Chuck Fletcher said the Vigneault-Hayes relationship played a role in pursuit of the talented center as well.
“It did,’’ Fletcher commented. “I mean obviously you never know when you acquire a player, either through a trade or free agency, how that player is going to fit with your coach. There’s uncertainty.
“There are times when things don’t work out, when you bring in a player and he just doesn’t seem to fit in. I think in this case, Alain is very comfortable with Kevin as a player and obviously Kevin is comfortable with that relationship as well.
“So I think that will speed up the learning curve and really allow Kevin to hit the ground running with the Flyers and feel comfortable with his role.’’
Hayes, 27, was acquired back on June 3 from the Jets in exchange for a fifth-round pick in this weekend’s NHL Entry Draft in Vancouver.
Having played numerous games against the Flyers as a member of the Rangers, Hayes knows the talent pool he’s joining.
“I know them pretty well,’’ he said. “To be able to join that group. . .I think Chuck and Paul (Holmgren, team president) are putting a team together that can do some damage and ultimately win the Stanley Cup.’’
He split last season between the Rangers and Jets, posting a career-high total of 55 points (19 goals, 36 assists) in 71 regular-season games between the two clubs.
Hayes was acquired by the Jets at this past season’s trade deadline on Feb. 25 and went on to contribute 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in 20 regular-season games and three points (two goals, one assist) in six playoff games.
Over parts of five seasons in the NHL, Hayes has a career total of 92 goals and 137 assists for 229 points in 381 games to go along with a career plus-minus of plus128.
A native of Dorchester, Mass., Hayes played four years at Boston College (2010-14), where he helped the Eagles win an NCAA championship in 2012. He was originally selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round (24th overall) of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
Fletcher has added depth at center with the signing of Hayes. It creates an interesting competition with former No. 2 overall draft pick Nolan Patrick.
He was asked if he’s completed his shopping list. He has about $21.5 million left in cap space but he still has to sign restricted free agents such as Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny and Travis Sanheim.
“When you combine the signing of him (Hayes) and the two veterans (Matt Niskanen, Justin Braun via trade), we think as a group we’re stronger, deeper and we filled a lot of the holes that we identified,’’ Fletcher said. “We’ll continue to speak with teams, see what opportunities might be out on the trade market.
“For right now, though, I think our focus will shift to the draft and to speaking to the agents of the free agents.’’
Fletcher revealed Hayes has a no-movement clause for all 30 teams for the first three years of the contract and then a list of 12 teams for the final four years.