It didn’t take forward John Hayden long to find a team once NHL free agency began. He landed a spot with the Arizona Coyotes that, with a handful of former teammates, won’t feel entirely new.
The 25-year-old signed a one-year deal with the team on Friday afternoon after playing 43 games with the New Jersey Devils last season, scoring three goals and one assist.
The terms of which were not disclosed.
Hayden in a Zoom call with the media Friday touched on the uniqueness of this year’s free agency, a period that began on Friday as opposed to the usual July 1 start date.
“I didn’t know what to expect going into this process after I had discussions with New Jersey,” Hayden said. “I’m honestly thrilled that things worked out as they did.
“It’s definitely nice to be wanted and to have confidence on their end.”
Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong shared Hayden’s enthusiasm in a press release, calling the forward “a big, tough, physical winger who is difficult to play against. He is also a smart player with good hockey sense.
“He will add size and grit for our forward group.”
When Hayden eventually joins the locker room, it won’t be full of strangers.
As a member of the Chicago Blackhawks, where he played three seasons, Hayden took the ice with now-Coyotes defensemen Jordan Oesterle and Niklas Hjalmarsson and fellow forward Nick Schmaltz.
He also has familiarity with Clayton Keller, as the two have trained together.
“There’s definitely a comfort level there,” Hayden said. “Having those relationships with some guys that I’ve played with before, I know (Arizona is) a place where guys love to play, love to live there.”
Hayden is joining a franchise that is in a transition period in the front office but has recently witnessed relative success on the ice that he is excited about.
Former president and CEO Ahron Cohen left the organization in May and was replaced by Xavier Gutierrez the next month. In July, the Coyotes cut ties with then-general manager John Chayka, and hired Armstrong in September to fill the role.
On the ice, the Coyotes made the postseason for the first time since 2011-12. They were defeated in the first round by the Colorado Avalanche.
“What’s exciting to me is the trajectory of the Coyotes,” Hayden said. “It was fun following them, especially in that first playoff run. There’s a bright future ahead.”
Hayden, who was drafted in the third round of the 2013 NHL Draft by the Blackhawks, has played in 156 games in his career, accumulating 11 goals and 15 assists.