Former Boston College forward Kevin Hayes, who raised some eyebrows following the Frozen Four by not signing with the Chicago Blackhawks, seems likely to be gearing up to hit the free agent market, as he will not be attending the Blackhawks' annual development camp. Hayes was Chicago's first round draft pick (24th overall) at the 2010 NHL Draft, and would certainly be one of the top collegiate free agents in the market, if not the top one, coming off a monster season at BC where he scored 27 goals and added 38 assists.
The deadline for the Blackhawks to sign Hayes to a contract during their exclusive window is August 15. If they fail to do so, Hayes is free to sign with any team, and the Blackhawks would be eligible for a compensatory second round draft pick.
Kevin's brother Jimmy Hayes, former Blackhawks property, was traded to Florida this past season. Could the Panthers be in Kevin's future, too? Our favorite unretired BC hockey blogger, who tends to be plugged in to inside information, says Florida, Calgary, and Boston would all be teams in the mix.
Of course, Hayes' agent refused to rule out that he would end up signing with the Blackhawks after all.
The issue is not likely to be money; CapGeek has an excellent breakdown of how entry-level contracts work in the NHL, but the general gist is that for a 22-year-old free agent drafted in 2010, he's likely to end up with a two year, $900,000 per year contract, with signing and performance bonuses that could top out at about $3,000,000.
Odds are pretty good that Hayes will get something resembling the maximum rookie contract and bonuses wherever he signs. The question for the Hayes camp is likely where he can crack the lineup immediately this fall - and perhaps just simply where he'd be most comfortable playing, since Hayes is in the rare spot for an American rookie athlete to actually have some leverage in deciding where he wants to go.
Should be interesting to see how this situation plays out -- I'm hoping to see Hayes on the third line wing for the Bruins this fall.