The Arizona Coyotes have acquired Taylor Hall. It’s more than a one for one deal. But the pieces that the New Jersey Devils are getting back are all fairly small ones.
Edmonton’s rivals in Arizona gave up a top three lottery-protected first-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, a third-round selection (conditional) in 2021, plus prospects Kevin Bahl, Nick Merkley and Nate Schnarr for Hall and Blake Speers. New Jersey will also retain 50 per cent of Hall’s salary for this year.
Said Arizona GM John Chayka to reporters: “Taylor Hall is one of the elite talents in the game today; a Hart Trophy winner, high-end playmaker and one of the NHL’s most talented forwards. We are beyond thrilled to add Taylor to our team as we continue in our mission of bringing a Stanley Cup home to Arizona.”
It was an OK-ish return for Hall, but there is no obvious outstanding prospect heading NJ’s way, not even a prospect as good as Erik Brannstrom, the return that Ottawa got for Mark Stone (along with a second round pick).
“Underwhelming return for Taylor Hall,” said long-time hockey writer Larry Brooks of the New York Post. “Devils got quantity. I’d have gone for quality. If one-for-one, so be it, but here’s NJ, with one playoff appearance and one playoff game victory since 2012, right back in the rebuild morass. Rangers may have gotten more quality for Hayes and Nash.”
“I’d feel pretty good about that deal if I was Arizona,” said Jeff Chapman, writer for the Copper & Blue blog.
Jim Matheson of the Journal noted: “(Oilers GM Ken) Holland hopes his team can make playoffs but hardly a given so an unconditional first-rounder was likely never in play for Hall, even if he’d have helped immensely on LW. Not for an absolute rental…Ariz feels they’ve got enough small F’s in Keller and Garland so Merkley was expendable. They kept their best D prospect Victor Soderstrom and gave up the six-foot-7 Bahl… Yeah, having Taylor Hall now playing in Arizona, the team they’re battling for playoff spot with is not the best news if you’re an Oiler fan.”
At the Cult of Hockey, Kurt Leavins said: “Hall deal. Not ideal to have him in the Pacific division. But if I’m Ken Holland, I also would not have paid the below for a rental, even for a guy like Hallsy who I’ve made no secret that I value highly. On the Oilers GM’s list for July 1st now.”
And Dustin Nielson of TSN1260: “Kudos to Ken Holland for keeping his powder dry today. Smart move.”
And Joe Haggerty, a NBC TV hockey columnist: “That’s a lot of assets headed to New Jersey for Taylor Hall. Not sure how high end any of those prospects are, however. Credit the Coyotes for going all in for this season.”
And Mark Spector of Sportsnet: “A couple of thoughts on Oilers and the Hall trade: – This wasn’t the time to give up the kind of assets that NJ got in return. Edmonton isn’t good enough to justify dealing 1st & 2nd rd. picks and one of their young Dmen (Bouchard, Bear, Broberg) for a player who may go UFA. GM Holland has had one summer with very little cap space to tweak roster. He needs to make this team better, deeper, and then consider trades like this. Too many holes in the roster right now. Could lose in Rd. 1, and watch Hall walk. Team just isn’t ready for a deal like this.”
At The Athletic, writer Corey Pronman has Bahl as the third top prospect in Arizona’s mid-ranked farm system, after Barrett Hayton and Victor Soderstrom. Said Pronman: “Bahl projects to be one of the top physical forces in the league as a 6-foot-6 defenseman who leans on checks regularly… He won’t be a power play guy in the NHL, but he’s got average hands and has good offensive instincts. Under pressure he can be forced into errors, but he also made some impressive plays last season that convinced me there’s more there. You add in OK feet – but very good for his size – and there’s NHL projection there for a guy who can take on a regular shift in the NHL and kill a lot of plays.”
He had Merkley, the 30th overall pick in the 2015 draft, ranked fifth. “When Merkley returned from injury, he continued his success from the previous season in the AHL, although he didn’t really take a step forward. Merkley’s strengths continue to be evident… The concern is his very average skating ability, particularly for a smaller forward, combined with concern among some scouts about what his ultimate role will be if he can’t score in the NHL.”
Nate Schnarr, the 75th pick in the 2017 draft, is a rookie centre in the AHL, with 9 points in 22 games. Merkley, 22, has 16 points in 26 AHL games this year, but just three goals.
What would an equivalent offer from Oilers have been?
If the Oilers had made such a trade, what might an equivalent offer have been?
Well, the same protected first round and conditional third round picks, obviously. As for players, Cooper Marody is a solid comparison for Merkley at this point, with Kirill Maksimov a stand-in for Schnarr, and maybe Dmitry Samorukov is a good Bahl comparison, though Pronman had Samorukov rated slightly higher than Bahl heading into this season.
Add it all up and Edmonton’s comparable offer would have been Marody, Maksimov, Samorukov, a first and a third round pick in return for about 45 games of Taylor Hall.
Will any of those players or picks pan out for the Oilers? If Edmonton uses those pieces to trade for other players at the deadline, will the Oilers be able to improve the team more than they would have if they had traded for Hall?
Let the debate begin, as I’m sure it will. Me, I’m kind of meh on the whole thing. I’m not convinced that giving up such players would have been a good or a bad move, but the risk of Edmonton (or Arizona) collapsing and missing the playoffs and giving up a Top 10 NHL draft pick is too great for me to have favoured making such a move. If Arizona slides out of a playoff spot — which is entirely possible even with Hall — this trade could backfire big time on them.
This was a risk Holland didn’t have to take — and I’m glad he didn’t.