Kevin Hayes, the Chicago Blackhawks' first-round draft pick in 2010, became an unrestricted free agent after he and the team were unable to agree on a contract prior to the league's 5 p.m. ET deadline Friday.
Hayes, a 22-year-old forward, was selected by the Blackhawks as the No. 24 pick of the 2010 draft, and the team held his exclusive rights until Friday. He had been eligible to sign with the Blackhawks since completing his senior season at Boston College in April. He was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, which is given to the NCAA's top player, and finished second in the nation with 65 points last season.
The Blackhawks will be compensated with the No. 24 overall pick in the second round of the 2015 NHL draft because they did extend an entry-level contract to Hayes.
"We offered Kevin what we believed was a generous and fair contract," Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said in a statement Friday. "Unfortunately, he felt it was in his best interests to become a free agent. We are looking forward to the compensatory draft pick we are receiving and are focused on the excitement surrounding the start of training camp next month."
Hayes' agent, Robert Murray, would not disclose Friday why the player decided to become a free agent.
"I'd rather not get into it at this point," Murray said in a phone interview. "I'm just going to let it as is and move ahead."
Hayes told ESPN Chicago in January he was "pretty sure" he was going to sign with the Blackhawks after his final season at BC. Murray then said in April that Hayes was in no rush to sign and would use a number of factors, including organizational depth, to make his decision. Hayes was not expected to play in the NHL immediately if he signed with the Blackhawks because of their depth at forward.
"This has been a difficult decision for Kevin," Murray said of Hayes in July. "He's identified himself with the Blackhawks. He was drafted by them. His brother [Jimmy] played for them. But after his college career, he had a chance to step back and look at everything."