After a few days of speculation, the New Jersey Devils finally pull the trigger on a Taylor Hall trade. After he was held out of both the Devil’s last two games, many hockey fans and media were waiting to see where he would end up. They now have an answer, as the Devils send him and forward Blake Speers to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for forward prospect Nick Merkley, defense prospect Kevin Bahl, forward prospect Nathan Schnarr, as well as a conditional 2020 1st round, pick and a conditional 2021 3rd round pick. The Coyotes have made it clear for a while that they want to make a splash and while currently sitting tied for the top spot in the Pacific Division, they have now added the biggest name on the market this season.
Let’s break down the parts of the trade first, there are a couple of conditions on both picks going to New Jersey. The condition on the 2020 1st rounder is if it becomes a top 3 pick this June, then Arizona keeps it and sends a 2021 1st rounder instead. With the way things are looking right now, I don’t think Arizona will have to worry about that, but hockey is a silly sport a lot of the time and you should lottery protect your draft picks regardless. With the 3rd rounder in 2021, if Arizona wins a playoff round OR Taylor Hall re-signs in Arizona, the pick then becomes a 2nd rounder. If Arizona wins a playoff round AND Taylor Hall re-signs, then the pick will become a 1st rounder.
Now, this does feel like a pretty underwhelming return, even for a rental. It could look better if both picks become 1st rounders, but that’s still magic beans and hearing about other offers that other teams were rumored to pitch, it sounds like there might have been better deals to take. Again, that is just speculating, but if those offers were true then New Jersey may have missed a better opportunity. Regardless, on the other side, this deal looks fantastic if you’re the Arizona Coyotes. Schnarr, Bahl, and Merkley are decent prospects, but the chance to acquire a player of Hall’s caliber makes it an easy decision and they still managed to keep both their top prospects in Barrett Hayton and Victor Soderstrom.
Acquiring Taylor Hall instantly makes Arizona a contender in the Western Conference. Not a lot of teams out West have really established themselves as contenders yet with their play so far this season. Colorado looks like a contender on most nights, Vegas and Calgary have started to turn things around after slow starts, but compared to the Eastern Conference, not a lot of teams have been consistently great yet. Arizona has put themselves in a really good spot through the first couple months of this season and they saw the situation they are in and an opportunity that presented itself, so full credit to John Chayka and the Coyotes for getting this done.
The Coyotes are currently 3rd in the NHL in GA/game (2.34) and 25th in GF/game (2.63). Taylor Hall gives the Coyotes a completely different dynamic upfront. They have one of if not the best goaltending tandems in the league with Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta, they are deep on the blueline especially once they get Niklas Hjalmersson and Jason Demers back from injury, and now they are a legitimate threat at both ends of the ice.
Hall is one of the few wingers in the NHL that can impact the game like a center. He has shown over his entire career that no matter who you play on his line or who he plays against, he can drive results and have a big impact on his teams on-ice numbers. He hasn’t had a great season so far this year, but part of that can be attributed to A) Shooting at 5.5% which is way below his career average of 10.5, and B) The Devils just being such a mess this year. However, before this year, let’s look at Hall’s previous 5 seasons and how he has impacted his team’s on-ice goal share (GF%) at 5v5.
2014-15: EDM With Hall- 51.43, EDM Without Hall- 36.30
2015-16: EDM With Hall- 52.25, EDM Without Hall- 39.38
2016-17: NJD With Hall- 52.05, NJD Without Hall- 41.33
2017-18: NJD With Hall- 58.56, NJD Without Hall- 44.85
2018-19: NJD With Hall- 53.85, NJD Without Hall- 40.66
Now, you can see from this that Hall has never had a great supporting cast around him throughout his career and that’s why his team’s numbers without him have not been good. But the fact that he’s had such a huge on-ice impact despite playing incredibly tough minutes, and with teams around him not being very good, is a testament of how great he’s been. He generates scoring chances and create offense for his teammates at a very high rate, whether it’s playmaking and creating in the offensive zone for his linemates, or his ability to carry the puck in transition and just flip the ice for his team, using a combination of speed, power, and hands that only a handful of players have been able to accomplish at an elite level.
Arizona has tried to improve its offense over the years and adding Hall to the lineup gives them a lot more options in terms of matchups and line combinations. Clayton Keller has played a lot with Derek Stepan this season and they have done well in terms of controlling shots and scoring chances. If they can start to break through their low shooting percentage and have pucks start to go in for them, You can keep them together and have Hall drive his own line with either Nick Schmaltz or others and give Arizona a more layered attack offensively.
It’s going to be very interesting to see how Hall fits into the team and how this will play out for Arizona. If they get off to a slow start or a cold stretch, I’m sure people are going to jump to conclusions, but I believe looking at the whole picture from now to the end of the season, this should work out really well. If Hall fits in well with the lineup and if Rick Tocchet can utilize him correctly and use him to his strengths, then Arizona could be set up very nicely for the rest of this season.
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