Not that it’s Earth-shattering news, but friend of the program (and probably soon to be re-assigned for doing so) Scott Powers of ESPN Chicago is reporting that Kevin Hayes won’t sign with the Hawks before the August 15th deadline and will hit the open market. Most everyone has known this would be the case since about April when Hayes’s college career at Boston College ended. The Hawks have tried everything they can offer-wise, shrinking the term on his entry-level so he can get to restricted free agency quicker. Some have speculated it’s an ill-feeling after the trade of his brother Jimmy. The more likely one speculated is that Hayes doesn’t see himself cracking the lineup in Chicago immediately, or at least not the top six where he might have to play.
I suppose this could kickstart a whole debate about whether the Hawks’ policy, or if you want Quenneville’s policy, of making it a Sisyphean task for a young player to crack the lineup is going to cost them more prospects like this. It really shouldn’t. It’s not that young players can’t, it’s that some can’t. After all, Quenneville takes to some kids immediately. Look at Leddy, Kruger, Shaw, and Saad if Carcillo can hurt his knee in the season’s first game. While I guess I’ve accepted that Teuvo Teravainen will start in Rockford, I still don’t have any doubts he’ll be up by the Holidays and playing regularly.
And it’s not clear how much of an impact Hayes might have. While his college numbers are certainly gaudy, this year they were piled up while playing on a line with the NCAA’s best player in Johnny Gaudreau. It’s hard to decipher where Hayes begins and Johnny Hockey ends when looking at his scoring totals. Captain Stairwell certainly has a dumb streak on the ice as well as off of it, which is utterly shocking for someone from Dorchester, MA. And by “utterly shocking” I mean “completely normal.” Hayes is a big guy but no one was sure he would be all that physical at this level when he can’t simply bully most of his opponents. He definitely has better hands than his brother and is a better skater, and can probably pile in 20-25 goals when he maxes out for a bad team. But I really wonder if he could crack the top six on a contender. Remains to be seen.
And it’s not a bad thing if a player look and sees you’re stocked on the wings for a while and may drown in the system. Even if Hossa’s and Sharp’s time in Chicago are limited either due to age or contract, Saad, Kane, Shaw, perhaps Morin, Smith, and McNeill all have long term futures here. Bickell is signed for three more years. I guess what’s a little worrying about that is that only Kane and Saad are surefire top-six wingers long term, though I really believe Morin could prove to be one this season if given the chance.
You’d also like to see determination and confidence from a kid that he can crack the lineup for a team no matter how good it is, especially as every team will give a player with size all the chance in the world to prove he can stick. If Hayes thinks he needs a softer landing and can’t prove the Hawks wrong if they’ve told him he’ll start in Rockford, then I would say fuck him.