Hayes became an unrestricted free agent Saturday when he and the Chicago Blackhawks, who selected him in the first round of the 2010 NHL Draft (No. 24), could not agree to a contract.
"My goal is to be on the team come [October]," Hayes told the Rangers website. "I'm going to do everything I can for that to be accomplished. Ultimately it's on myself and how I perform."
Rangers assistant general manager Jeff Gorton had high praise for their new signing.
"He's a big man that has all kinds of skill, nice hands, hockey sense," Gorton said. "We just saw him as -- once he became available -- as a guy that's pretty close to playing. He has a lot of the things we're looking for."
Hayes (6-foot-2, 201 pounds), who is capable of playing center or right wing, had 44 goals, 132 points and a plus-37 rating in 142 games at Boston College, where he played two seasons with Rangers forward Chris Kreider.
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 playing on a line with Calgary Flames prospects Bill Arnold and Johnny Gaudreau. Gaudreau won the Hobey Baker.
"I think when Kevin was looking at the teams and he looked at the Rangers, I think he looked at the younger players we've had and we've inserted right into the lineup and have had success," Gorton said. "I think Kreider is one of those guys."
Hayes said he's a fan of coach Alain Vigneault's style of play.
"I really like the way AV plays," Hayes said. "He likes to score goals and be responsible defensively as well. I think that's a style I like to play."
Under rules in the collective bargaining agreement, Chicago will receive the 54th pick in the 2015 NHL Draft as compensation.
Hayes and the Blackhawks had until 11:59 p.m. last Friday to reach an agreement.
The collective bargaining agreement gives an NHL team four years to a sign a player, as 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 offseason.
The pick Chicago receives is the No. 24 selection of the second round.
Really excited to be part of the @NYRangers organization. Thankful for the family, friends and fans that supported me along the way.— Kevin Hayes (@KevinPHayes12) August 20, 2014