Losing Jimmy Hayes hurts, but getting Reilly Smith in return is worth it

The Cats traded Jimmy Hayes to the Boston Bruins and got an better player back in the form of Reilly Smith.

Dale Tallon was quiet for almost the entirety of July 1st, signing a handful of AHL players to contracts in order to bolster the roster of the team's American League affiliate, the Portland Pirates.

That evening, however, he made some noise by trading Jimmy Hayes to the Boston Bruins in exchange for Reilly Smith and Marc Savard's contract.

Hayes, 25, is coming off of a 19-goal season, but would most likely have required arbitration in order to get a new contract signed with the Cats.

Smith, 24, was a key piece of the return Boston got from the Dallas Stars in exchange for Tyler Seguin, while Marc Savard's contract going to South Florida gives Don Sweeney some cap room to work with in Boston.

Many in the Panthers' fanbase had high hopes for Hayes headed after the 2014-2015 season, as he developed a reputation as a "streaky scorer", and the hope was that consistent play would result in the big-bodied winger topping the 20-goal mark in 2015-2016.

Though Hayes may still hit that 20-goal plateau, Smith will ultimately prove to be the more valuable player, especially for the Panthers heading forward.

Let's begin with a simple statistical comparison.

Player Reilly Smith Jimmy Hayes
Rel. CF% 4.47% 0.79%
Rel. SCF% 5.29% 0.86%
G/60 0.68 0.98
P/60 1.52 1.50
exp. CF% 52.8% 52.8%
Actual CF% 55.0% 51.8%
dCorsi% (exp. - Actual) 2.2% -1.0%
TOI/Game (Team Rank) 13.14 (6) 12.75 (5)
iCF/60 12.29 13.54
Composite SAG/60 12.17 9.74
CC% 38.1% 41.6%

Now, I know there are a lot of numbers in that chart, so let's break it down:

Rel. CF% and Rel SCF% - The Bruins get a better share of the shot attempts and scoring chances with Smith on the ice than they do with him off of it. The same could be said of Hayes, but to a much lesser degree.

G/60 and P/60 - Hayes averaged more goals per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time, but Smith averaged more points (by a tiny margin).

exp. CF%,Actual CF%, dCorsi%/, and TOI - We can disregard the relative numbers mentioned above to a certain degree, as Smith spent a lot of time with Patrice Bergeron last year, which would certainly result in positive possession metrics.

Using dCorsi (which accounts for quality of teammates, among other variables), however, we can see that Smith does drive possession on his own. Both Smith and Hayes had an expected CF% of 52.8%, but the young Bruin outperformed that expectation by more than 2 percent, while Hayes actually failed to meet expectations. Given that both were in top six roles for their teams (based on ice time per game), it's a good bet that Smith is better-suited to play on the second line than Hayes.

iCF/60, Composite SAG/60, and CC% - Here we can get a good look at offensive tendencies. Hayes generated a lot of shots, while Smith came close to matching Hayes' shot totals, and generated much more offense with his passing. Smith may have also been carried by his linemates in Boston, but Hayes wasn't exactly driving play down in South Florida.

Overall, Hayes may be more of a "goal-scorer", but Smith is more offensive in general, and better defensively. When it comes to numbers, the advantage is clearly in Smith's favor.

For those wondering what exactly makes Smith more suited for a top six role, it boils down to his ability to compliment skilled players. While in Boston, the 24-year-old winger showed a knack for helping out the elite players that he played with.

Here are some examples of this. In each of the two .GIFs below, Smith makes a good play in order to get the puck to someone on his team. It just so happens that those players are stars (Bergeron and Marchand) who score thanks to their individual efforts, but Smith doesn't just "pass" the puck to his teammates. He consistently recognizes when his teammates are better than him, and defers to them when he should. They create offense because of it.

Here, Smith buys himself time in the slot with some nifty stick handling, and though he's in position to shoot, Brad Marchand is open and in better position. Smith realizes this, gets the puck to his teammate, and Marchand puts it in the back of the net.

This play is a lot more subtle, but it's also where most of Smith's value comes from, especially when playing in a top six role. He uses his stick skills to knock the puck out of the air, and make a little back-handed pass to Bergeron in space. Bergeron and Marchand do most of the offensive work here, but the breakout comes as a result of Smith.

Though Hayes creates space for his linemates due to his size, he doesn't have the puck skills that the former Boston Bruin does, and doesn't do as much for his teammates offensively.

Here's some examples of turnovers by Hayes that occurred either because he was too slow, or because his hands weren't good enough to control the puck.

Nick Bjugstad is open here, but Hayes tries to take the puck across the line himself. That wouldn't be a bad play, except for the fact that he gets caught from behind, and stripped of the puck.

Right here, though I will give Hayes credit for getting the puck out of the zone, and at least in Huberdeau's general direction, the pass he makes is terrible. The puck is knuckling around, and Huberdeau has no chance of recovering it. Ottawa regains control of the puck, and ends up right back in the offensive zone.

This isn't to say that Jimmy Hayes is a bad player. He's a good third line winger who can use his size, shot, and ability in close to score goals. But, he isn't a top six forward at the NHL level.

On the other hand, Reilly Smith has better hands, and is a bit quicker than Hayes. That extra amount of skill results in him helping out both his linemates and his team getting a greater share of the shot attempts when he's on the ice. There's a reason why Hayes' puck possession numbers are so low, despite the fact that he does create offense; he turns the puck over or fails to get it up to a teammate too often, and the team gets caught in their own zone because of it.

Reilly Smith may not be the high scoring winger that a lot of people wanted the team to add. He's still going to be a very valuable addition, and his ability to compliment other players while on a scoring line will be key to unlocking the offensive abilities of other forwards such as Nick Bjugstad and Brandon Pirri.

He was quiet throughout most of the day, but Dale Tallon's one move at the end of the day made the Florida Panthers a better team. Not much more you can ask of the general manager.

Now that you've seen the two forwards compared to each other, how do you feel about the trade?