At the trade 2019 trade deadline the Jets acquired Kevin Hayes from the New York Rangers for Brendan Lemieux and a first round draft pick. A steep price, but, one that was definitely in keeping with the going rate for “high end” rental players. Hayes was in the midst of his best season as an NHL player, and was seen as a key component in the Jets having a long playoff run, a la Paul Stastny.
Things did not work out as planned for anyone involved. Hayes and his skill set were an awkward fit on the Jets, he never developed chemistry with any of the line mates he had (most notably Nikolaj Ehlers and Patrik Laine), and was perhaps under utilized by coach Paul Maurice. The end came when Hayes was demoted to the fourth line in the playoffs and essentially removed from any special teams play.
Hayes had brief shining moments, like a beautiful overtime goal in a win against Chicago. But alas, that was wisely not enough to compel the Jets to attempt to retain him as a UFA. Hayes negotiating rights (and the player himself) were traded to the Philadelphia Flyers June 3, 2019 for a fifth round draft pick. A nice move by Kevin Cheveldayoff considering he was a UFA, but, a tough pill to swallow giving up so much for 26 mediocre games as a Winnipeg Jet.
It is hard to say if Hayes’ numbers are because of his time with the New York Rangers or not. He was significantly better than his teammates possession wise and he was an asset to the Jets because of that. He was also good with Patrik Laine, who is an oddly difficult player to play with. For all of Hayes’ strengths, the Jets decided to move on, probably for many reasons including the fact they need to sign a bunch of younger players this summer and want to have the cap space to do so.