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July 01, 2023

Danny Brière on the Kevin Hayes trade: 'It's not a deal that we loved making'

But one that the Flyers had to.

The week happened fast.

The rumors came and went by Monday, Kevin Hayes got traded on Tuesday, the NHL Draft started Wednesday, and the hockey world full-on sprinted right through all of it. 

It was no time for the Flyers to stand still, much less sit and process a deal that – one way or another – had to happen. But once the draft concluded Thursday afternoon down in Nashville, there was finally time for a breather, time to think, and time to ask about that trade with St. Louis that netted the Flyers just a 2024 sixth-round pick while retaining 50 percent of Hayes' remaining salary. 

"Obviously it's not a deal that we loved making," Flyers GM Danny Brière said during his post-draft press conference. "Kevin's a great guy, really loved by his teammates. The way things went last year wasn't ideal and what was important for me was not taking a contract back. 

"That opens some possibilities there and shedding half of his salary, which depending on how you look at it is not ideal, but it might be a way that we can weaponize it to add some assets down the road. So like I said, it's not something we liked doing, but felt it was needed at the time."

And they ultimately had to as the writing had been on the wall for months. 

Hayes, who has been billed as a two-way center throughout his career, can still be a productive player in the right system and fully expects to be one again with the Blues, but it became (sometimes painfully) clear this past season that his run in Philadelphia was up.

The Flyers were rundown, injured, and heading toward a rebuild; head coach John Tortorella, in his first year behind the Flyers' bench and looking to see which players would step up, never got what he was after out of Hayes, which caused a disconnect; and once the organization fired Chuck Fletcher and truly came to grips with needing to start anew, it was obvious that Hayes was on the wrong side of 30 and wouldn't fit into any long-term rebuild plans. 

He still put up 54 points, was a point-per-game player for a long stretch at the start of the season, and was the Flyers' lone All-Star, but his role under Tortorella – through a kick out from center to the wing, benchings, and healthy scratches – only ever diminished. 

Hayes needed to move on this summer and so did the Flyers. The big problems, however, were that the whole league knew this too and that he was carrying a steep $7.1 million cap hit over the next three seasons.

There was no way of expecting a major return unless the Flyers got creative, though they nearly did in the initially reported version of the trade that had Travis Sanheim going to St. Louis too in exchange for one of the Blues' late first-rounders and veteran defenseman Torey Krug. The belief, however, was that Krug, who has a no-trade clause in his contract, used that right to stay put, which nixed the proposal on the table. 

At the same time, Nashville's trade of Ryan Johansen – a center of similar circumstance and skill to Hayes – to Colorado for only the negotiating window to journeyman forward Alex Galchenyuk, didn't help by setting an extremely low-value market just before the draft. 

So for Hayes only, at that point, a sixth round pick next year was all there really was to be gained from finally moving him out and moving on. 

But understandably, fans weren't all that impressed.

Brière and the Flyers were able to swing things back the other way 24 hours later with a draft highlighted by the selection of Russian phenom Matvei Michkov at seventh overall, who is now the crown jewel of the rebuild and carries the potential to become hockey's next premier goal scorer. 

It'll likely be a few years before that can happen, of course, but the Flyers have the time

As for free agency, which begins at noon ET on Saturday...

"I don't expect us to be super active," Brière said. "We don't want to block our young guys. We want to give them the chance to play. We're not looking for long-term contracts either at this point, so don't expect too much in a couple days on that."

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