Sabres Summer Trade Target – Kevin Hayes


The Buffalo Sabres face a season where accountability will be stressed under head coach Lindy Ruff and areas of need will have to be addressed by GM Kevyn Adams for the club to snap their 13-year playoff drought. Over the next few weeks, we will take a look at players who could be potential trade targets this summer in advance of a year that has to be considered playoffs or bust.

The Sabres have a window to make upgrades going into next season, with nearly $23 million in cap space, one of the NHL’s best prospect pools, and all their draft picks. Last summer, Adams was not willing to deal his first-round pick or youngsters such as Matthew Savoie, Jiri Kulich, or Isak Rosen, but now the thought is that the patient developmental approach will be abandoned and that Adams is looking to potentially make a move for a difference-maker who can play in the top six or a center that can provide a different aspect behind Tage Thompson and Dylan Cozens.

Kevin Hayes – Center (St. Louis Blues)

Contract status – signed through 2025-26 at $3.57 million AAV

Another potential candidate who fits the criteria of fitting in with the Sabres in more of a depth role and someone who does not have significant term remaining on their contract is Hayes, a big-bodied center who has played for four teams in his 10-year NHL career.

Originally a first-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks, Hayes opted to be an unrestricted free agent after four years at Boston College and signed with the New York Rangers in 2014. After almost five seasons in the Big Apple, he was dealt to Winnipeg at the 2019 trade deadline as a rental, and that summer signed a seven-year free agent deal with Philadelphia.

The 32-year-old played four seasons with the Flyers, but his not gelling with John Tortorella and Philadelphia’s going through a rebuild led to the veteran center being traded to St. Louis in 2023. Philadelphia retained 50% of Hayes’s $7.14 million AAV and in his first year with the Blues, he had 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists) in 79 games.

The Blues may be looking for a roster reset and getting younger after missing the playoffs for the second straight season, and GM Doug Armstrong could be open to moving Hayes and another former Ranger Pavel Buchnevich before next season.

Hayes is known as a solid two-way center, using his 6’5”, 216 lb. frame to his advantage, and one of the league’s top face-off specialists (last season had a 57% win rate). With the Sabres solid one-two punch of Thompson and Cozens in the top-six, Hayes would fit in nicely providing a big body up the middle on the third line.

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