Kevin Hayes did not always intend to land somewhere other than Chicago. Hayes was the Blackhawks’ first-round pick in 2010. A month later, the Dorchester native attended the team’s development camp, as he did the next two Julys.
Somewhere along the line, the former Boston College standout changed his mind.
On Aug. 15, Hayes declined to sign with Chicago and became an unrestricted free agent. Five days later, Hayes signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Rangers.
“There’s not that many who go through that process,” said Bob Murray, Hayes’s Needham-based agent. “For Kevin, it wasn’t what we were anticipating during his first few years at BC. He was drafted by Chicago. He went to their camps in the summer. Everything was fine from that regard.”
The league’s collective bargaining agreement includes an option for NCAA players. If a player does not sign with his draft team within four years of his selection, he can hit the free market.
High-profile NCAAers Blake Wheeler (Minnesota) and Justin Schultz (Wisconsin) used this route to pick their destinations after their third year of college (both played a year of junior hockey after they were drafted).
Wheeler was originally Phoenix’s first-round pick in 2004. He declined to sign with the Coyotes by the Aug. 15, 2008, deadline. Wheeler then signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Bruins instead. Schultz, Anaheim’s second-round pick in 2008, reached the market in the summer of 2012 and signed with Edmonton.
Both players reaped immediate benefits. Wheeler made the Bruins out of camp. As a first-year pro, he found a home alongside David Krejci and Michael Ryder on the Bruins’ No. 3 line.
Had the lockout not delayed the start of the 2012-13 season, Schultz would have broken camp with the Edmonton varsity. Instead, he reported to Oklahoma City, the Oilers’ AHL affiliate.
Upon the end of the lockout, the puck-rushing defenseman was recalled to the varsity, where he dressed for all 48 games. Schultz (11-22—33, a team-leading 23:20 average time on ice last season) is now Edmonton’s No. 1 defenseman, re-signed to a one-year, $3.675 million extension on Friday.
Wheeler and Schultz, however, hit the free market after their junior seasons. Hayes played for Jerry York for four years and received his degree in communications from BC’s Carroll School of Management.
Hayes is the highest-profile four-year collegian to exercise this option. According to College Hockey Inc., Chris Porter was another example. Porter signed with St. Louis the summer following his senior season at North Dakota.
Coincidentally, Porter’s rights were also held by Chicago. The Blackhawks picked the forward in the ninth round of the 2003 draft. Porter played his first pro season in Peoria, St. Louis’s former farm club.
If Hayes can play for the Rangers like he did as a BC senior, Hartford, the home of New York’s AHL team, is not in his future. The left-shot forward was the right wing on the country’s best line. While playing with Johnny Gaudreau and Bill Arnold, Hayes racked up 27 goals and 38 assists. He was the NCAA’s No. 2 scorer after Gaudreau (36-44—80), his left wing. Hayes’s 65 points were just two shy of his production from his first three seasons.
“I always felt Kevin had some exceptional skills with his hands and vision,” Murray said. “His first three years at BC were good years. Not spectacular years. His junior year, he got injured at the end of the year and missed a bunch of games. He put in a real good summer before his senior year. His senior year, it started snowballing in the right direction. They put the line together with Gaudreau and Arnold. They had great talent and chemistry. They became a very dominant line. Kevin’s skill level started to show itself.”
Everything fell into place for Hayes. He did not want to leave school early. He stayed relatively healthy. He landed on a generational line alongside Gaudreau and Arnold, who signed with Calgary after BC’s tournament ouster. The late-summer courting period — Murray declined to disclose other suitors — created a focused and serious market. For the teams in the chase, Hayes was a singular target.
By mid-August, many teams have their rosters set. They carried out their grunt work at the draft and on July 1 (the opening of free agency).
But teams such as the Rangers had an idea that Hayes might not sign with Chicago. The Blackhawks are loaded up front.
Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, both $10 million-dollar men starting in 2015-16, are superstars. Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp are first-liners on most teams. Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw, and Teuvo Teravainen will be top-six fixtures soon. Even ex-Eagle Ben Smith plays an important fourth-line role. Directions to Rockford, Chicago’s farm team, would have been Hayes’s first GPS entry.
In comparison, Hayes’s chances of sticking on Broadway in October are greater. Because of their cap issues, the Rangers said goodbye to Brad Richards, Benoit Pouliot, Brian Boyle, and Derek Dorsett. If he sticks, Hayes will cost the Rangers only $925,000 toward the cap, the maximum a rookie can make before bonuses. Hayes, who has played all three positions, could be somewhere on the third line.
Hayes is in the minority. There are not many first-rounders who stay in college for four years.
But everything worked out for Hayes. He won an NCAA championship, earned his degree, and chose his NHL employer as a 22-year-old. There’s a system in place, and Hayes worked it to perfection.
GOOD EXCHANGE RATE
Marblehead program is still going strong
Every winter, as a hockey player growing up in Marblehead in the 1980s, David Santeusanio made a weekend visit to St. Lambert, Quebec, as part of an annual exchange. His lack of French led to several days of pointing at the meals he wanted.
“Not much better now,” the 41-year-old said with a laugh about his French.
Santeusanio’s linguistic skills may not have changed. But as vice president of the Marblehead Youth Hockey Association, Santeusanio is experiencing a longtime program as a parent instead of a participant. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the youth hockey exchange between Marblehead and St. Lambert, a Montreal suburb just south across the St. Lawrence River. Its organizers believe it is the oldest such exchange in North America.
In November, mites, squirts, peewees, and bantams from St. Lambert will arrive in Marblehead. They will stay for a weekend to play games at Salem State University, participate in off-ice activities, and live with Marblehead families. In February, the Marblehead players will do the same at St. Lambert’s Eric Sharp Arena.
Approximately 200 players will take part in the exchange, including Santeusanio’s 12-year-old son, Peter, and 9-year-old daughter, Kate. Previous participants include Devils goalie Cory Schneider and former Bruins coach Steve Kasper.
“What I think is great about this is it’s really a cultural exchange,” Santeusanio said. “They’re getting to know a new country and a new city. It’s so enjoyable to watch these kids compete hard on the ice and create these great relationships with these Canadian boys and girls. Those relationships continue year after year. If the kids are the same age and the same level, they end up playing on comparable teams year after year. You see friendships develop. It’s great seeing these kids create memories.”
The exchange started in 1964. Bill Haskell, a Marblehead youth hockey coach, regularly traveled to St. Lambert to purchase lumber for his business. After casual conversations, Haskell and his Canadian counterparts decided to launch the exchange for their players. Several generations have since participated in the program.
“There’s many people like me in town who played and now have come back to coach,” Santeusanio said. “There’s a youth hockey coach who is now a grandfather, and his granddaughter is participating in the tournament. It’s neat. There’s a cool history there.”
Anderson secure in his position with Senators
In 2010-11, the last time Craig Anderson was in a contract year, things did not go very well.
Anderson was pegged to be the Avalanche’s ace goalie over Peter Budaj. But under then-coach Joe Sacco, now an assistant with the Bruins, Anderson went 13-15-3 with a 3.28 goals-against average and .897 save percentage. On Feb. 18, 2011, Colorado wheeled Anderson to Ottawa for Brian Elliott.
The Senators did not want a similar dropoff to take place in 2014-15, the final season of Anderson’s four-year contract. So on Monday, Ottawa gave Anderson a three-year, $12.6 million extension, hoping that the goalie’s peace of mind — and the resulting expected uptick in play — would outweigh the risk of the deal.
“From a personal standpoint, having the security of getting it all wrapped up, off the plate, and off the mind is definitely a relief,” Anderson said in a conference call. “Knowing I can just go and play hockey, do my job, and not have to worry about if I’m doing enough to earn myself this or that, it takes all those doubts out of play. I can focus my energy 100 percent. To play this game at any position you need to focus your energy 100 percent on the task at hand, and you can’t have any distractions. Having it all done and wrapped up will have a huge impact moving forward.”
Anderson is 33. He has an injury history (head, ankle, finger over the last two seasons). He’s recorded peaks and valleys instead of smooth, dependable performance. And one month ago, the Senators re-upped Robin Lehner, their future No. 1, to a three-year extension.
It’s a curious collection of circumstances.
In 2012-13, Anderson was out of this world: 1.69 GAA and .941 save percentage. Mostly because of Anderson’s airtight play, the Senators qualified for the playoffs. Ottawa beat Montreal in the opening round before losing in five games to Pittsburgh.
Similarly, Anderson’s so-so play (3.00 GAA, .911 save percentage) was a big reason for Ottawa’s failure to make the playoffs last season. Neither Anderson nor Lehner (3.06 GAA, .913 save percentage) was able to slam the door shut.
The Senators believe in Lehner. But the 23-year-old, Ottawa’s second-round pick in 2009, isn’t ready yet. That’s fine. Tuukka Rask was 25 when he became the full-time starter in 2012-13.
If Lehner develops on Rask’s timeline, he would be the starter in 2016-17. That would leave the Senators with a 35-year-old Anderson taking up $4.2 million in cap space. That’s not great. But it’s something the Senators will be OK to deal with if Lehner becomes the ace they expect.
According to Ottawa-based freelance writer Chris Stevenson, Marc Savard will be a scout for the OHL’s Ottawa 67s this season. Employment will not affect Savard’s contract with the Bruins. He will collect $1.5 million this season and $575,000 each in 2015-16 and 2016-17. Savard never officially retired because he would have forfeited the remainder of his salary. His last game was on Jan. 22, 2011, when a hit from former teammate Matt Hunwick resulted in a concussion. The Bruins will use the long-term injury exception again this season to exceed the cap by Savard’s $4,027,143 average annual value.
One World Sports, currently available on Verizon FiOS and Dish Network, will carry up to 99 KHL games in 2014-15. The network has signed a multiyear deal with the Russian league. The first televised game will be on Wednesday when Metallurg Magnitogorsk and Dynamo Moscow play in the season opener. Magnitogorsk, led by former NHL coach Mike Keenan, won the Gagarin Cup last year. “Now fans in the US and Canada can experience high-level professional hockey while following their favorite NHL alumni in the KHL,” Joel Feld, One World Sports’s executive vice president of programming and production, said in a statement.
Danny DeKeyser, Detroit’s No. 2 defenseman behind Niklas Kronwall, remains unsigned with a little more than two weeks remaining until the start of camp. DeKeyser was eligible for arbitration but chose not to file. He may be rethinking that decision now. The left-shot defenseman, undrafted out of Western Michigan, scored four goals and 19 assists in 65 games last season while averaging 21:38 of ice time. The 24-year-old could have been under contract, either via arbitration award or pre-hearing settlement. The likelihood would have been the latter, as only P.K. Subban and Vladimir Sobotka advanced to hearings.
Milan Lucic (wrist), Chris Kelly (back), Dennis Seidenberg (knee), and Adam McQuaid (ankle), who are coming off surgeries, are on track to participate in all on- and off-ice work to start training camp, according to Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli. Camp opens Sept. 18, with the first preseason game taking place five days later against the Canadiens in Montreal . . . On Sept. 25, Chelmsford’s Jack Eichel will be one of 42 players dressing for the annual All-American Prospects Game at Buffalo’s First Niagara Center. Eichel, projected to be the second pick in the 2015 draft after Connor McDavid, could be getting a preview of his future home rink. The down-and-out Sabres could have the best crack at picking Eichel or McDavid, who plays junior hockey 90 minutes away from Buffalo in Erie, Pa. . . . Dave McGrath’s fourth annual Skating for Hope event will take place Sept. 19 and 20 at Holy Cross’s Hart Center. The 24-hour skating and hockey marathon (puck drop is 5 p.m. on the 19th, final buzzer at 5 p.m. the next day) benefits Worcester’s Hope Lodge, which offers complimentary housing and services for cancer patients. For more information, visit www.skatingforhope.org . . . Earlier this month in Chicopee, friends and former colleagues celebrated the achievements of longtime NHL official Kevin Collins. As a linesman, Collins worked 2,734 games over 28 years. In January, Collins retired as the NHL’s manager of on-ice officials. Local whistleblowers attending the party were referee Chris Rooney (South Boston) and Brian Murphy (Dover, N.H.) . . . The Market Basket fiasco finally closed on Wednesday. The fallout: weeks of dead business and lost wages for employees. Puckheads know the easiest solution would have been a gloves-off tilt between Arthur T. and Arthur S. Maybe the hesitation was the fear that punches would have continued to fly after one cousin hit the ice. That’s a no-no.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.