The Florida Panthers and restricted free-agent forward Jimmy Hayes came to a last-minute agreement on a one-year deal Tuesday, thus avoiding their scheduled salary arbitration hearing in Toronto.
Hayes, 24, is coming off a career-best season of 11 goals and seven assists in 55 games, 53 with Florida and two with Chicago. Hayes made a prorated $687,500 salary last season as part of a two-way deal, and will receive $925,000 on a one-way contract this season, according to a team source.
The 6-foot-6 Hayes was originally drafted by the Maple Leafs in the second round in 2008, and came to the Panthers from the Blackhawks on Nov. 14, along with defenseman Dylan Olsen for forwards Kris Versteeg and minor leaguer Philippe Lefebvre.
“We are pleased to have reached an agreement with Jimmy,” Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon said in a statement. “We look forward to his continued contributions to our team both on and off the ice.”
Hayes, who had been bouncing back and forth from Chicago’s AHL affiliate in Rockford to the Blackhawks in the past three seasons, found a niche on the Panthers’ fourth line this year, however, he was most effective when former interim coach Peter Horachek placed the 6-6 Hayes in front of the net on the team’s second power-play unit where he screened out goalies and cleaned up rebounds.