The St. Louis Blues scored their first trade of the 2023 NHL offseason, nabbing Flyers center Kevin Hayes. Philadelphia will retain half his $7.14 million cap hit.
With the trade, the Blues have $3.9 million left in available cap space. Philly is left with $10.3 million for any other free agents they might want to sign.
Hayes was the Flyers’ 4th-best goal scorer and 2nd-best in points total behind Travis Konecny, Owen Tippett, and Scott Frost this past season. He had 18 goals and 36 assists during a 2022-23 season which saw Philadelphia finish 7th of 8th in the Metropolitan Division and almost 20 points out of a playoff spot.
Getting Hayes gives the Blues a top-six center who could help them return to the playoffs after they finished 37-38-7 and were 14 points adrift of the final Western Conference wild-card spot. They are also adding a 6-foot-5 forward who arguably had the strongest season of his career while playing for a Flyers team that struggled to score. If that sounds a lot like what happened with the Blues a lot in 2022-23, that’s because it is.
2022-23 marked the 2nd time that Hayes eclipsed the 50-point mark, having last done it during the 2018-19 season when he scored 19 goals and 55 points while playing for the New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets. The 31-year-old has just finished up his 4th season with the Broad Street Bullies and will be joining his 4th team in an 11-year career starting with the Rangers in 2014-15 before heading to Winnipeg for 2018-19 and then Philly til now.
Adding Hayes for the Blues could be crucial. He adds depth down the middle alongside Robert Thomas and Brayden Schenn, two top-line players for the Blues in an otherwise less-than-ideal 2022-23 season.
But the biggest deal maker on this trade is that St. Louis can retain enough cap space while also not having to sacrifice any of their 3 first-round 2023 NHL Draft selections, which for a team heading in their direction would be a nightmare. Philadelphia is also implementing a draft strategy as well, since they are now in full-on rebuild mode.
On the other hand, it all means we’ll see how well a top-5 team scorer like Hayes does in 2023-24 during his first season in a Blues sweater. Hopefully, he won’t be aged out too much like Philadelphia cheese(steak).