CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks haven’t given up hope in signing forward Kevin Hayes, one of their top prospects.
Hayes was selected by the Blackhawks as the No. 24 overall pick of the 2010 draft and spent the last four years playing at Boston College. His first three seasons were ordinary, but he finished his collegiate career as one of the nation’s top point producers and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award.
Hayes stated in early January that he expected to sign with the Blackhawks when his senior season ended. Since he completed his season in April, however, Hayes hasn’t been as eager to get a deal done. His agent Robert Murray said recently that Hayes wasn’t in a rush to sign because his college season ended so late and he was still deciding about his future.
Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said Tuesday that he was still optimistic he could sign Hayes. The Blackhawks hosted Hayes recently during Game 5 of the Western Conference finals. Bowman said he spoke to Hayes then.
“We said since the day we finished school we’ve been talking to him all year and all four years of college,” Bowman said. “We want to sign him. I think he just wanted to take his time and decide what’s best for him. [We're] very hopeful that he wants to be part of our group.
“I think when he sees the way that we play. His skill set is very comparable to the players that have had success here. I think it’s a great fit for Kevin. He’s 22 years old, so he’s not in that 19-year-old category. He may not be a guy who has to spend a long time developing. So that's the benefit of leaving a player in college for four years. He’s got a lot of talent.”
Hayes’ reluctance could be partly due to the fact the Blackhawks don’t have many lineup spots opening in the near future. He witnessed his brother Jimmy Hayes wait for his chance in the Blackhawks organization and then was traded to the Florida Panthers this past season.
The Blackhawks have 10 forwards signed for next season. They are expected to re-sign restricted free agent forwards Jeremy Morin and Ben Smith and add the organization’s top prospect Teuvo Teravainen to the mix.
ESPN NHL Draft and Prospects analyst Corey Pronman didn’t believe Hayes would be ready to crack the Blackhawks’ lineup immediately if he signed with the organization. He ranked the 6-foot-2, 201-pound Hayes behind Teravainen and forward Ryan Hartman, the team’s 2013 first-round pick, and right with defenseman Adam Clendening and forwards Phillip Danault and Mark McNeill among the Blackhawks’ top prospects.
“[Hayes] could be a second-line winger as an unusually skilled player for his size possibly, but will need AHL seasoning as needs to rounds out game and improve his consistency,” Pronman said.
Bowman was still open to Hayes playing wing or center.
“He played his first three years as center, and this last year he was on the wing,” Bowman said. “He was part of the best line in college hockey. They dominated. It’s certainly nice to see him be able to do both. He’s got the combination of size and skill, and that’s hard to find.”
Murray said Saturday he and Bowman spoke earlier in the week, but no progress was made. The Blackhawks own Hayes’ rights through Aug. 15.
“Nothing new at this point,” Murray said in a phone interview Saturday. “I talked to Stan earlier this week. We’re still waiting, sort of analyzing what we’re going to do. We said we would stay in touch. We’ll take it week by week and see where it goes.”