New York Rangers must sign Hayes long-term or trade him immediately

OTTAWA, ON - FEBRUARY 17: Kevin Hayes
OTTAWA, ON - FEBRUARY 17: Kevin Hayes /

The New York Rangers have two RFAs left unsigned — Kevin Hayes and Ryan Spooner. It appears that both might need arbitration to settle their negotiations.

Yesterday, the New York Rangers gave one of their two most important restricted free agents, Brady Skjei, a massive contract extension. The agreement will lock Skjei into a roster spot on the Rangers’ blue line for the next six years with a cap hit of $5.25 million.

While the cap hit may seem like a little bit much now, the Rangers took the smart approach with Skjei. They’re paying him for future performance, something that the Rangers haven’t always been accustomed to doing.

Now the Rangers need to lock up one of their other key restricted free agents, Kevin Hayes.

This contract negotiation doesn’t seem to be nearly as rosy as Skjei’s.

According to a report from the New York Post’s Larry Brooks, the Rangers and Hayes are likely to agree to a one-year contract; nothing more, nothing less.

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Both camps likely have worry about signing long-term: From the Rangers’ side of things, they know they have a glut of kids at center ready to start coming up to Broadway full-time starting this season.

They may not see Hayes as a key piece of the rebuild. For Hayes’ camp, they may not want to sign long-term on a rebuilding team who’ll likely play him on the wing, a position not as valuable, in terms of cash, as center.

The Rangers and Hayes have until August 2 to come to an agreement before heading to arbitration, a place the Rangers haven’t gone to since Sean Avery’s days on Broadway.

If it appears to be all quiet on the long-term extension front, the Rangers need to trade Hayes before that deadline.

Signing him to a one-year deal where he’d be set to become an unrestricted free agent may diminish his value on the trade market, and since the two sides couldn’t come to a long-term agreement now, they will most definitely part ways anyway by season’s end.

In that case, before Hayes hits the rental market at the trade deadline for a reduced price, the team ought to deal him to wherever they can get the most value, even if it is at a position of strength.

Assets are assets, and it appears that is all Hayes is becoming in the eyes of the Rangers’ front office. But don’t blame them entirely if an extension doesn’t get done for the long haul. It may be equally –or even more than that– the fault of Hayes’ agent.

The clock is ticking here, and the Rangers must decide what to do with the Boston College alum, and fast.