Florida Panthers forward Jimmy Hayes opts for salary arbitration

In what is likely a simple formality, Cats make "news" on a slow day in July.

Restricted free agent forward Jimmy Hayes has elected arbitration to decide the value of his next NHL contract.

Acquired alongside blueliner Dylan Olsen from the Blackhawks on November 11 of 2013 in exchange for a somewhat unmotivated Kris Versteeg, Hayes went on to score 18 points (11 goals) in 53 games with the Panthers. Both he and Olsen are prime-cut prospects at their respective positions but fell victim to Chicago's abundance of stockpiled talent and contracts.

Per CapGeek, Hayes, a second-round selection by Toronto in '09, was set to max out at $687,500 at the NHL level in the final year of his three-season, two-way ELC, recently completed.

Rumblings persist that Florida may be hot to sign Jimmy's younger brother, 22 year-old right wing Kevin Hayes, a Boston College standout (45G-89A 134P in 141 games) who recently graduated, and has not yet committed to Chicago.

If indeed such a case is reality, the Panthers are likely to wrap this particular contract episode quickly, with a reasonable offer beneficial to both parties; in essence, put out the fire before it begins.

Of note, Jimmy and Kevin are cousins of "original" Panthers forward Tom Fitzgerald.