Hayes, 26, will be an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of this deal. As of January 1, 2019, the Rangers can extend him past his current deal, but the costs are likely to rise from this $5.125 million cap hit.
It was originally reported by Larry Brooks of the New York Post that Hayes was seeking a five-year deal with an average annual value upwards of $5.5 million. On Saturday, Brooks reported that the Rangers may settle on a one-year deal with their RFA because there was little traction in their negotiations.
The Rangers have built up their center depth with Mika Zibanejad and prospects Lias Andersson, Filip Chytil, and Brett Howden. Plus, they have Vladislav Namestnikov who can play center, and likely Ryan Spooner as well. How long Hayes remains as a part of that depth remains to be seen. At this point, the Rangers have a few options; they can extend Hayes after January 1, sign and trade him after January 1, or trade him as a playoff rental at the trade deadline.
With Hayes’s extension (and Brendan Smith at the NHL level), CapFriendly projects the Rangers to have just over $9.7 million in cap space remaining. After signing Hayes to this one-year extension, the Rangers have one more restricted free agent in Spooner to extend.