The New York Rangers are betting on Kevin Hayes' future after agreeing to a new deal with the 24-year-old.
There's no denying Hayes' talent when he's on the ice. The former first-round pick has scored 81 points in 158 games with the Rangers over the last two years. He finished tied with Chris Kreider for the sixth-most assists (22) on the team last season.
Hayes' future with the Rangers did not appear to be secure, however. Head coach Alain Vigneault was not shy last season about calling out his young winger for poor play.
“There’s been more than one occasion, but obviously that turnover that led to that goal was one of many that we’ve seen this year," Vigneault said, according to Neil Best of Newsday. “You show players confidence, you throw them back out, you hope that they’re going to get it by the experience. But in Kevin’s case it hasn’t been the case yet.”
That comment came after Hayes made a turnover in a loss against the Nashville Predators last December. Things would continue to be frosty between the two throughout the season, including the playoffs, when Vigneault benched Hayes during the Rangers' first-round series loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Rangers also announced they agreed to terms with Kreider on an extension, which could have opened the door for them to move Hayes.
It's hard to find a young player who has shown great promise through two seasons and should get better with more experience and age. Hayes has been a solid piece of the offensive rotation in New York, but now he has to take on a bigger role to justify the team's faith in him.