With a skilled winger added on Day 1 of free agency, Buffalo Sabres General Manager Kevyn Adams moved swiftly Thursday to add a physical forward to the team's bottom-six.
The Sabres announced that winger John Hayden is coming to Buffalo on a one-year, two-way contract worth $750,000. If Hayden doesn't make the team out of camp, he can be sent to Rochester without requiring waivers, but he hasn't played in the American Hockey League since 2017-18.
Hayden, 26, is listed at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and could bring a heavy game to the Sabres' fourth line. He won't provide much offense in Buffalo, as illustrated by his 13 goals and 31 points in 185 career NHL games. However, Hayden can block shots and plays more of a physical brand of hockey, a welcome addition for the Sabres after they signed two undersized wingers in Drake Caggiula and Vinnie Hinostroza.
Hayden, like the two aforementioned wingers, has a history with Sabres coach Don Granato dating back to their time together in Chicago from 2017-19. During that span, Hayden ranked first among all Blackhawks forwards in hits and sixth in blocked shots.
Hayden has also shown he's willing to fight to protect or defend his teammates, as he's been assessed 16 fighting majors during his NHL career, including five with Arizona last season. He's the sort of role player Adams planned to target at the start of free agency, as the Sabres prioritized not adding anyone who would take ice time or opportunity away from the young core.
Hayden has never received much ice time in his career, averaging only 9:59 across five seasons. Perhaps his best year in the NHL occurred when playing for Granato in 2017-18, as Hayden finished with career highs in goals (4), points (13), takeaways (18) and hits (118). Hayden can be reliable defensively, as he ranked second on the Coyotes last season in limiting on-ice shot quality at 5-on-5, according to Evolving-Hockey.com.
The Sabres also signed right-shot defenseman Ethan Prow to a two-way, one-year contract worth $750,000. Prow, 28, played four seasons in the Penguins organization when Buffalo associate general manager Jason Karmanos worked in Pittsburgh. Prow totaled 18 goals and 50 points in 74 games in 2018-19. He played the following season for the Florida Panthers' American Hockey League affiliate before joining EHC Red Bull Munchen in Germany's DEL for 2020-21, where he was teammates with Sabres prospect JJ Peterka.
Prow will provide depth on Rochester's blue line and insurance in the event the Sabres encounter an injury on defense. He has never played in an NHL game.