- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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BOSTON -- Jimmy Hayes has won a Hockey East championship at TD Garden. A couple of Beanpot Tournament titles here, too.
As a member of the Boston College Eagles from 2008 to 2011 those moments were special, but the newest Boston Bruin believes the best is yet to come.
The Bruins acquired Hayes, a native of Dorchester, Mass., from the Florida Panthers in exchange for Reilly Smith on July 1. Boston then signed the restricted free agent to a three-year contract worth an annual cap figure of $2.3 million on Monday.
“This has been a dream come true for me to be able to come home to my hometown, my family and to be able to have this opportunity to win another championship for this city,” Hayes said during his introductory news conference Tuesday in the Bruins locker room at TD Garden.
It takes a special athlete to be able to play and produce in front of his hometown fans, family and friends. He accomplished that during his college career, but the NHL is a completely different level. Still, Hayes, 25, is confident he can succeed with the Bruins.
“I’ve probably played more games in this city than I have anywhere in my entire career,” he said. “I don’t think it’s pressure. I can handle it. It’s going to be a great opportunity for me to be able to wear a jersey I dreamed of wearing.”
The Toronto Maple Leafs originally selected Hayes in the second round (No. 60 overall) in the 2008 NHL draft. Toronto then traded his rights to the Chicago Blackhawks in June 2010. After three seasons at BC, Hayes turned pro and split his rookie season of 2011-2012 between playing for the Blackhawks and their AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs.
He spent the majority of his second pro season in the AHL before he was traded to the Florida Panthers in Nov. 2013. It wasn’t until 2014-2015 that Hayes played an entire season in the NHL.
“I got the opportunity to play with some pretty good players and capitalized on my chances," he said. "It took me a while, it was my fourth year pro, so hopefully I’m coming into it now.”
Boston is the third team of his young NHL career.
“Hopefully this will be my last team here,” he said.
Hayes brings his 6-foot-6, 221-pound frame back to Boston in hopes of becoming that prototypical power forward for the Bruins.
“I like to play that game. I like to throw my body around and play that north-south style of game,” he said.
A right winger, Hayes will battle for a spot on the Bruins' top two lines. Given his size and style of play, Hayes could fit nicely alongside top-line center David Krejci. At this point of the offseason, however, Hayes said it doesn’t matter where he plays.
“They’ve got a ton of talent up the middle, and playing with anybody will be a great opportunity for me,” he said.
7dPierre LeBrun and Joe McDonald