Now that the Blackhawks annual prospect camp and fan convention are both in the rear view mirror, the next date on the calendar for Hawks fans is in less than four weeks.
Kevin Hayes, the team's first round draft pick in 2010, has 25 days left until he becomes a free agent. And all indications are that the Hawks will be receiving a second round compensation pick when the Boston College grad walks away from the organization that selected him four summers ago.
The legend of Kevin Hayes is growing every day. When he becomes a free agent on August 15, it appears most of the Eastern Conference will be in line to offer him a two-year, entry-level contract. Unfortunately, as Sports Illustrated's Allan Muir pointed out, the Blackhawks appear to be losing their "prized prospect."
CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty said Hayes' home town Bruins should keep an eye on Hayes, while Larry Brooks at the New York Post took it a step further, elevating Hayes to "stud" status recently.
While these headlines, and the possibility of losing a 6-3, 210-pound Hobey Baker nominee, could easily lead some Blackhawks fans to a bottle of Xanax, let's not forget where we were one short year ago.
The younger Hayes was highly touted when he arrived at Boston College, following his older brother Jimmy. But his first three seasons left a lot to be desired.
Through 102 games over three seasons, Hayes produced only 17 goals and 50 assists with 32 penalty minutes. His junior year ended with a lot of questions in the wake of his suspension and a subsequent injury that required surgery.
Fast forward a few months to his senior year, and Hayes found himself on a line with 2014 Hobey Baker winner Johnny Gaudreau and Bill Arnold. Suddenly, Hayes looked like the power forward the Hawks drafted in 2010, and the best line in college hockey dominated throughout the season. Hayes scored 27 goals and added 38 assists in 40 games his senior year to elevate himself into the "prized" "stud" he is today.
Immediately following their season's end, Gaudreau and Arnold signed with the Calgary Flames. Both played in one game at the end of the NHL regular season, and Gaudreau scored his first professional goal.
Meanwhile, Hayes sits and waits.
If/When he becomes a free agent on August 15, the Blackhawks will walk away with the 54th overall selection in the 2015 Draft as compensation. Hayes will find a home with an organization that hasn't won two Cups in the last five years, but apparently that's what he wants.
During the season, Hayes tweeted #FreePirri and #FreeMorin, chiming in on the pleads of Hawks fans to see a couple of the team's top prospects getting regular minutes at the United Center. Now it appears we're 25 days away from #FreeHayes becoming a reality.
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