Kevin Hayes saw a report over the weekend that the Flyers were about to trade him to the Blues. His Philadelphia teammate, fullback Travis Sanheim, was reportedly also part of the deal.
“I’ve been texting with Sandy a bit,” Hayes said. the athlete Tuesday. “We heard some rumors. We heard it was done, then it wasn’t done, then it was done, and it wasn’t done.”
The reason the deal wasn’t finalized, according to league sources, is because the Blues were planning to send defenseman Tore Krogh to the Flyers in exchange, along with a first-round pick in this year’s draft. But Krug, who signed a seven-year, $45.5 million free agent contract in 2020, has a no-trade clause, and they’ll need him to waive it. These are the final details in such a trade – after the clubs have agreed on the assets.
Hayes, 31, is an avid golfer who spends his summers in his hometown of Boston, so he spent Saturdays and Sundays on the course, wondering if it would be out of the blue.
“Honestly, it just slipped out of my hands,” Hayes said. “I couldn’t do anything about it.”
But what Hayes had on hand was his cellphone, so he texted an old friend about the situation. That friend was none other than Krug, with whom Hayes played hockey for the Boston Icemen starting at the age of ten. Then when Krug was with the Boston Bruins, Kevin’s older brother, Jimmy, was his teammate.
“I’ve known Tori for a very long time,” said Hayes. So I talked Tori through this whole thing. You hear rumors, I texted him, and I said, ‘Hey, what’s going on?'”
Hayes refused to divulge what was said in his conversation with Krug—”These things are between us,” he said—but he soon discovered what we all eventually learned, which was that Krug was invoking a no-trade clause to prevent a trade to Philadelphia.
“He got that right,” said Hayes. “He’s an incredible player, and I don’t question anything he did. Everything he wanted to do was cool with me.”
Four days after it emerged that Hayes and Sanheim could be headed to St. Louis and Krug to Philadelphia, the Blues settled for a smaller version of the trade on Tuesday, acquiring Hayes for a sixth-round draft pick in 2024. Per cent of the position’s maximum salary for the remaining three years of his contract, So the Blues would handle an annual average net worth (AAV) of $3.6 million.
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong, who is in Nashville for the NHL Draft on Wednesday and Thursday, will address the media Wednesday afternoon regarding the trade.
This season, Armstrong has admitted that the Blues are in a state of change, but he has also made it clear that he wants his team to be competitive in 2023-24, and Hayes has helped with that.
The 6-foot-5, 216-pounder scored 18 goals and 54 points in the 2022-23 season and was an All-Star for the first time in his career. But he butted heads with Flyers coach John Tortorella, who switched him to the wing and made him a healthy scratch at one point.
“I got to play the All-Star Game and I still didn’t feel like I was helping the team at some points,” said Hayes. “They sort of rebuilt and didn’t see me as a part of it, when I saw myself as a part of it. I never lost faith in my game, but maybe the coaches do. They just probably didn’t think I could help their team as much as I thought I did.”
“I knew I had been trading pretty much this entire summer. No one ever told me that, but I could read the writing on the wall.”
When speculation began a few days ago regarding St. Louis, Hayes said he was excited because he is cousins with former Blues player and current Blues college scout Keith Tkachuk on his mother’s side, Shelagh Hayes.
“I feel like everyone says they like the team they’re being traded to, but it’s true,” said Hayes. “I grew up watching Keith when he was with the Coyotes and the Blues. Every time they came to town, I would drop out of school and go to their clinic.”
But as Hayes waited for the trade to come to fruition on Sunday and then Monday, he and his agent Bob Murray, who was also Tkachuk’s agent during his career, weren’t getting their hopes up.
“We didn’t really know,” Murray said. “Most of what we got was from the media. … Everyone thought the deal was about to happen on Saturday and it didn’t. Then there’s the fear that the whole deal might fall apart.
But it seemed like St. Louis wanted Kevin and Philly was willing to do what was necessary to make it happen. I talked to (Flyers GM) Danny Briere a few times, and he was very honest and forthright, and that was nice. We were just waiting and hoping it would be done. I was feeling confident, But you never know.”
As of late Monday night, Hayes had not heard any rumors about the deal coming down on Tuesday.
He was golfing again on Tuesday and told the guys in his quad that he needed to be close to his phone.
“I said, ‘I’m sorry, but I have to keep the bell up,’” Hayes said. “But my family group (text) chat was going, ‘Bing, bing, bing.’” It wasn’t even about hockey. It was about my 9-year-old niece’s soccer game. I was like, “I’m stopping this.” So I put it on silence, and five minutes later, I looked down and had three missed calls from Danny B. And two of my agents.
“It’s weird when you read about a deal that didn’t happen, and then two days later it’s a different kind of trade. The whole thing was released two days ago, but yeah, it’s very exciting that I ended up in St. Louis.”
After hearing from Brier, Hayes received a phone call from Armstrong.
“He just said, ‘Listen, we didn’t have the year we wanted,’” Hayes said. “He believes in the guys he has in that room. It wasn’t long ago that they were so successful, and he thought I’d be of great help to them. I’m so excited. I think I can help the team, and I can’t wait to get there.”
Hayes also joked that Blues fans owed him one.
In 2019, he was with Winnipeg, facing the Blues in the first round of the postseason. The best-of-seven series was tied at two games apiece, and the Jets would win Game 5 2-0 at home. In the second half, he had a chance to put his team up 3-0, but when Hayes tried to beat goalkeeper Jordan Pennington, he inadvertently blocked the goal from going in, and the Blues recovered to win 3-2.
“I shot the puck out of the net that was going in for Winnipeg,” said Hayes. “I guess (St. Louis) should thank me for that.”
Hayes is familiar with many of the players on the Blues roster and heard news from them on Tuesday. Played with Pavel Bukhnevich with Rangers and knows Nick Lady as well.
“They have some good young players and some older players who are great as well,” he said. “I think I have to fit easily into the group. I have great confidence in my ability to play in this league. I’ve been in the league for a while. I think I’m a player who leads the offense and makes the players around him better, and that’s what I plan to do when I get to St. Louis.”
The only player wondering if he’ll be teammates when he joins the Blues is Krug. The defenseman exercised a no-trade clause in the deal with the Flyers, but that doesn’t guarantee he won’t be transferred at some point this summer.
“I don’t know what happens with him from here,” said Hayes. “I hope he will be with us in St. Louis. I will be very happy. I would like to play with him. He is a great guy.”
(Photo by Kevin Hayes: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)