"We offered Kevin what we believed was a generous and fair contract. Unfortunately, he felt it was in his best interests to become a free agent," Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said in a statement. "We are looking forward to the compensatory draft pick we are receiving and are focused on the excitement surrounding the start of training camp next month."
Under rules in the collective bargaining agreement, Chicago will receive the 54th pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.
Hayes and the Blackhawks had until 11:59 p.m. Friday to reach an agreement. Hayes, who played at Boston College, was selected by Chicago in the first round (No. 24) of the 2010 NHL Draft.
The collective bargaining agreement gives an NHL team four years to a sign a player, so long as he remains a college student over that period. When the player officially exits college, as Hayes has, the NHL team retaining his rights must sign him by 11:59 p.m. ET on Aug. 15 in that same offseason.
"It has been a long, thought-out process," agent Robert Murray told Chicagotribune.com on Thursday. "[Kevin] has worked his way through it. [Thursday] was Aug. 14 so I would expect we'll get to the 16th."
Hayes was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award as the most valuable player in college hockey last season after he finished second in the NCAA with 65 points and fifth with 27 goals while playing on a line with Calgary Flames prospects Bill Arnold and Johnny Gaudreau. Gaudreau won the Hobey Baker.
Hayes (6-foot-2, 201 pounds) is capable of playing center or right wing, and had 44 goals, 132 points and a plus-37 rating in 142 games at Boston College.
Among the interested teams could be the New York Rangers, Florida Panthers and the Flames. Jimmy Hayes, Kevin's older brother, plays for the Panthers. The Blackhawks traded Jimmy Hayes to the Panthers on Nov. 14, 2013.
The pick Chicago received is the No. 24 selection of the second round.