Kevin Hayes signed a seven-year contract worth almost $50 million with the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday.
The contract has an average annual value of $7.14 million.
The 27-year-old center could have been an unrestricted free agent July 1. He was traded to the Flyers by the Jets on June 3 for a fifth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.
[RELATED: Fantasy projection for Hayes with Flyers in 2019-20]
"Obviously as an athlete, July 1 and unrestricted free agency is definitely an intriguing idea," Hayes said. "But when I sat down with my agent and we kind of thought about what type of team I'd want to go and where I'd fit into the organization and the team, the Flyers were at the top of the list. Once the season ended, they were on a short list of mine that I was intrigued by. To be able to get traded there from the Jets and kind of get a head start in our conversations, I got to know the organization and I got to know some players a little bit. It was kind of a no-brainer. Ultimately between me and my agent, we wanted to go to a great city, a team that can win and a team that can kind of go for the Stanley Cup, and the Flyers are one of those teams, we think."
Hayes had 55 points (19 goals, 36 assists) in 71 games with the Winnipeg Jets and New York Rangers this season, including 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in 20 games with the Jets after he was acquired in a trade Feb. 25.
"He checks a lot of boxes we were looking for," Philadelphia general manager Chuck Fletcher said. "We like his size (6-foot-5, 216 pounds), we like his skill, we like his 200-foot game. We like his age; he's just entering the prime of his career and he plays a premium position at center. So we think he rounds out our forward group out and will give our coaching staff a lot of options going forward. When you combine our signing of him with acquiring the two right-hand defensemen we did in the past week (Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun in separate trades), we just think as a group, we're stronger, we're deeper and we filled a lot of the holes we identified coming into the summer."
Hayes signed with the Rangers on Aug. 20, 2014, and had 216 points (87 goals, 129 assists) in 361 games in five seasons with New York, including four (2014-18) under Alain Vigneault, who was hired as Flyers coach April 15.
"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 coach, you don't know how you're going to fit in with the players and stuff," Hayes said. "But playing under [Alain] for four years, we had a great relationship on and off the ice. He demands hard work, and if you play the correct way, he kinds of lets you play freely offensively, and that was a huge factor in the decision. Being comfortable with him just made the decision a lot easier."
Philadelphia this week acquired Niskanen in a trade from the Washington Capitals for defenseman Radko Gudas, and Braun in a trade from the San Jose Sharks for two draft picks.
Winnipeg traded its first-round pick in the 2019 draft, a conditional pick in the 2022 NHL Draft and forward Brendan Lemieux to acquire Hayes prior to the NHL Trade Deadline.
Selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round (No. 24) of the 2010 NHL Draft, Hayes has 229 points (92 goals, 137 assists) in 381 regular-season games and 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 40 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
"We feel we're acquiring a quality offensive contributor, but he's also a player that has excelled on the penalty kill," Fletcher said. "He does have a quality, 200-foot game. He has a good stick defensively. He reads the play well and he's a player that I know Alain feels comfortable in using in many different situations. I think if you looked at our club last year, we were just thin sometimes. We asked a lot out of (center) Sean Couturier the last couple years, and I think with adding Kevin and the continued maturation of Nolan Patrick, we should have many more options for our coaching staff and our team to get better matchups."
NHL.com staff writer Tracey Myers contributed to this report
Listen: Impact of Hayes signing on NHL Fantasy on Ice podcast