The Rangers biggest trade chip has been shipped out early on deadline day, with Kevin Hayes making his way to the Winnipeg Jets. In return NY gets pretty much what was to be expected – a late first, mid-prospect & a conditional 4th if the Jets hoist the Cup. Brendan Lemieux certainly isn’t Roslovic, Vesalainen, Niku, etc. – but he’s a young, talented kid with the same snarl his pops had (Claude). He will make the Blueshirts tougher to play against for sure. Just don’t pigeonhole him as solely a “pest”. He put up great AHL numbers last year, albeit has struggled in his first full season on the big stage. That’s not uncommon, especially playing for a stacked team where opportunity is limited and leashes are short. I’m excited to see what he can do with more freedom in NY as he’ll certainly slot into the lineup right away.
As for Winnipeg, this is a great acquisition for them. I’d have to think Hayes will bump Bryan Little down to the third line giving them tremendous depth up the middle – which is HUGE come playoffs. While Hayes isn’t known for throwing hits he’s still a big player who uses his body to protect the puck & fend off defenders. He’s hard to play against, which is exactly who the Jets are as a team. Hayes will bring more offensive creativity to their top 6 than they were getting with Little & should also help a bottom-tier PK unit.
Kevin Hayes’ Rangers career was a roller coaster. He’s shown offensive firepower & shutdown ability separately but had never put it all together until this year. He’s also been a player who’s disappeared at times & effort was highly questioned after admittedly being out of shape at times. He’s matured though. Gotten stronger, more consistent and become a true professional. Winnipeg gets him at his peak and he’ll pay huge dividends for them as they battle through the West this postseason.