Quick Hits: June 16, 2019
1) In an unsurprising move, the Flyers placed veteran defenseman Andrew MacDonald on waivers on Saturday for purposes of buying out the final season of the contract he signed back in 2014. The Flyers will get two-thirds cap relief in 2019-20 (offsetting the added salary cap obligations taken on via Friday's trade acquisition of Matt Niskanen and 30 percent salary retention on Radko Gudas). The trade-off for the greatly reduced cap on MacDonald for 2019-20 is that the Flyers will take on a small cap for him in 2020-21, whereas they'd have otherwise have had him off the books at that point.
2) Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher held a 1 p.m. conference call with reporters on Saturday afternoon to discuss the MacDonald buyout, the Niskanen acquisition, the continued exploration of upgrades at all positions (defense, forwards and a backup/tandem goaltender to play in conjunction with Carter Hart), and the updated status of negotiations with impending unrestricted free agent Kevin Hayes as well as the team's group of unrestricted free agents. For a five-point synopsis of the main takeaways from the conference call, click here
3) When a reporter cites a "source close to" a certain player, especially where matters of contract status are concerned, the source is most likely is the player's agent (although in a few instances it could conceivably be a mutual close friend, a relative whom the reporter has previously interviewed for a profile piece on the player, etc.). There have now been two articles in the national hockey media that have indicated a source close to Hayes saying that Philadelphia is not the player's first choice and that he prefers to sign elsewhere.
As I wrote the other day, I suspect that this is a case of an agent (Hayes is represented by Bob Murray) doing some negotiating through the media in an attempt to get his client's desired price tag met.
According to an article by veteran hockey writer Adrian Dater, the source close to Hayes said that the player, a Boston area native, prefers to return to his hometown and sign with the Bruins. The report also says that the Bruins have mutual interest.
While the notion of Hayes desiring a return to his hometown to play for a Bruins team that fell just one win short of the Stanley Cup this season is certainly plausible, the likelihood that the Bruins see a need for the player or have major interest in juggling their cap dollars to accommodate him does not seem to add up. The Bruins still have perennial Selke Trophy candidate Patrice Bergeron ($6.875M cap hit), 73-point scorer David Krejci ($7.25M) and a recent acquisition, fellow Boston area native Charlie Coyle ($3.2 million) under contract for at least one (Coyle), two (Krejci) or three (Bergeron) seasons. There really isn't a need for Hayes.
Ultimately, the Flyers' ability to sign Hayes before he goes on the open market primarily boils down to one thing and one thing only, and it's not where he grew up, a comfort level with a certain head coach (i.e., Alain Vigneault), the Flyers' training facilities vs. another club's facilities or anything other than money. In his newest "31 Thoughts" column, Elliotte Friedman hit the nail on the head: Are the Flyers willing to go into the $6.5 million to $7 million cap hit territory on Hayes?
If so, he'll sign here and preempt unrestricted free agency. If not, he'll see if he can get it via courting multiple bids between June 24 and July 1. While he probably will then weigh team fit and geographical "comfort level" factors if the bids are similar, money will talk the loudest. Pro hockey is a business, and it will be a business decision on the player's side.
If Hayes signs elsewhere, he'll no doubt get that special "Philadelphia welcome" from the fans when he comes to the Wells Fargo Center as a visiting player. But it wouldn't be a rejection of the fans, the city or the team. It would be a financial decision on both sides; no more and no less.
4) June 16 Flyers Alumni Birthdays: Dainius Zubrus (1978), Chris McAllister (1975).