BOSTON -- Kevin Hayes' long-term plans with the New York Rangers haven't changed, even after he agreed to terms on a one-year contract that could make him an unrestricted free agent after this season.
"I'm a Boston kid, but I absolutely love New York City and I would love to be there my entire career," Hayes said Friday before playing in the fourth annual Comm Ave Charity Classic, a game between Boston University and Boston College alumni to benefit the Travis Roy Foundation and Compassionate Care ALS.
"At the moment, [a one-year contract] was best for both sides. We couldn't really come to a long-term agreement and a one-year deal is what came out of it. I'm not treating it like I'll be out of there in February or at the end of the year. Everyone keeps saying UFA at the end of the year, but that had nothing to do with the decision."
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The 26-year-old forward, who has 174 points (73 goals, 101 assists) in 310 games with New York, said he spoke to Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton two hours after he signed July 30 and was reassured that they have no intention of trading him this season. Hayes said he also doesn't view the one-year contract as a prove-it contract for him, especially after he scored an NHL career-high 25 goals last season.
"The NHL is a tough league and I think I've done pretty well in it," Hayes said. "I consider myself a top player on our team, and I think my play will show that. If I play the way I think I can play and want to play, the rest of the stuff will handle itself. There's no thought of me wanting out or them wanting to get rid of me."
Video: NYR@NYI: Hayes bats home a PPG to open the scoring
The one-year contract buys the Rangers time to see what they have in some of their younger players before deciding whether to make a long-term commitment to Hayes.
"In a perfect world, Kevin Hayes is here after one more year and we keep going with him. Everything goes the way he wants it to and we do," Gorton said. "We certainly have (the NHL salary cap) room to keep him and move forward, it's just a matter of the contract. As we went through the process, the one-year deal seemed to be the best fit for what we're doing right now. I think Kevin was comfortable saying, 'OK, I'll come back this year and I'll do exactly what I say I'm going to do, and then let's talk.' We're comfortable with that too."
Hayes said he believes he'll prove to the Rangers he can be a vocal leader on and off the ice.
"It's my fifth year and I think it's time," Hayes said.
He also said he thinks new coach David Quinn's up-tempo style will help him add offense to his game, but it doesn't mean he'll have to sacrifice his role as New York's top shutdown center.
Last season, Hayes led the Rangers with 507 defensive-zone face-offs (Mika Zibanejad was second with 420) and started 57.28 percent of his 5-on-5 shifts either in the defensive zone or the neutral zone. He also led forwards in total shorthanded ice time (170:22) and per game (2:15) for New York, which tied for 10th in the NHL on the penalty kill at 81.4 percent.
"When [Derek Stepan was traded to the Arizona Coyotes], it was a big motivation for me to be a good shutdown center, and I thought I did pretty well last year with that, playing against other team's top lines, playing in the [defensive] zone, starting in the [defensive] zone above 60 percent of the time," Hayes said. "That's just a confidence builder. Points and goals, that stuff is cool individually, but that's not why we play. You have to be the right player on and off the ice every day. You have to show the coaches and the organization that you're a leader."
Hayes will enter this season with a pre-existing relationship with Quinn and his coaching staff, which he said will make the transition from former Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, the only coach he has had in his NHL career, easier.
Hayes and his family are close with Quinn, whom they have known for years, and Rangers assistant Greg Brown was an assistant at Boston College when Hayes played there from 2010-14.
"I'm not really too worried about scoring 25 or 30 goals," Hayes said. "I would like to, but it's not really a priority for me. It's showing up to the rink every day and showing the young guys what it takes to be a pro. I've had these talks with [Gorton] and [Quinn]. I think it'll all come together."