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JONES: Taylor Hall was never returning to Edmonton Oilers – Edmonton Sun

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A ridiculous percentage of Edmonton hockey fans, with no good reason, got their hopes up for a Taylor Hall return to the Oilers.

It never made much sense.

First, while mid-December is awful early for such a thing, Hall is headed for free agency and is leaving New Jersey as a rental.

What would general manager Ken Holland want with a rental?

I don’t know how many times I’m going to end up reprinting this Holland quote this year, but …

“You’re hearing this over and over again from me. On the short term we’re trying to make decisions on 2019-2020, but ultimately, I’m trying to build this team to be a really good elite team in the Western Conference.”

Why would Holland give up a bunch of assets to get a player for 45 games?

Yes, Taylor Hall back in Oilers gear would play well with the fan base that loved the guy when he was here and won the Hart Trophy after he left.

But the Oilers have no money to pay $3.6-million for the rest of this season.

And with what Hall is likely looking for going forward, the one mega-money contract of his career, they wouldn’t likely have the $8-million or so he’d likely want going forward, which is a lot for a second line left winger on this team.

Edmonton needs to do exactly what Holland is doing. Draft. And develop, develop, develop.

Look at what the Arizona Coyotes gave up to get Hall.

One locked-in first round draft pick plus a conditional first round draft pick if the Coyotes re-sign Hall and win a playoff round.

Also there’s former first-round pick Nick Merkley (30th in 2015) and forward Nate Schnarr (third round, 75th overall in 2017) both currently being developed in the AHL.

There’s also defenceman Kevin Bahl, a second rounder in 2018, still playing junior for Ottawa 67’s.

That’s a lot of birds in the bush. And the first rounder and conditional first rounder aren’t likely to be lottery picks.

Compared to the stay-at-home defenceman the Devils got for Hall in the first place, you’d have to say New Jersey did a helluva deal if you look at the trade this way:

Adam Larsson for a first round draft choice, a conditional first round draft choice three prospects that were first, second and third-round draft choices.

But, again, Hall is a rental.

And he’s a left-winger.

Holland was never going to be trading away first-round draft picks, conditional or otherwise, to get a rental in December. Or at the trade deadline.

Yes, it would have been interesting with the trade bait that is Jesse Puljujarvi. But to give up Philip Broberg, Evan Bouchard? There was never a chance.

Without question Taylor Hall would have helped the biggest current concern, all that ice time that is wearing Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl down and causing defensive lapses on their part and the inability of this team to compete five-on-five.

Hall is excellent five-on-five.

And I don’t buy the opinion out there that Arizona made a mistake because quote-unquote “Taylor Hall is not a winner.”

Yes, he hasn’t done any winning in his NHL career. But he won two Memorial Cups and was MVP in the junior classic as well as an MVP in a NHL regular season. And he’s likely learned a whale of a lesson on the value of teammates.

Make no mistake. The dud of a deal by then general manager Peter Chiarelli has just come back and become a double whammy on Edmonton.

Obviously Hall makes Arizona better.

Going into games Monday night, the Coyotes and Oilers had both played 35 games and Arizona had just replaced Edmonton in first place in the Pacific Division, two points up on the Oilers.

With his hands handcuffed by the salary cap situation of the team he took over, Holland is returning from a scouting trip to Russia with his team in a slump and trying to make it to Christmas in possession of a playoff position.

Holland built several bridges to get the team to being in contention at this point of the season while players developed on the farm.

It’s getting close to the point where he’s going to have to decide whether they need a full season in Bakersfield or are getting close.

I suspect he’s leaning to the full season in most of their cases.

But the Hall deal likely means he’s going to have to try get creative with some of the spare parts he has to solve the Dynamic Duo ice time issue and the five-on-five situation that has been a result.

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Adding Brantley would give Jays elite offence, set up more possible moves – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays may have just been getting started when they agreed to terms with George Springer on a franchise-record six-year, $150 million contract late Tuesday night.

On Wednesday, they engaged in serious talks with Michael Brantley, according to multiple industry sources. Earlier on Wednesday, multiple outlets including Sportsnet reported that a deal was in place with Brantley, but a Blue Jays team official later refuted the report.

If completed, a deal would give Toronto’s already-potent lineup yet another impact bat. But given how crowded the Blue Jays’ outfield mix would look with Brantley, adding him might also prompt further moves.

First, let’s turn our attention to Brantley, Springer’s former Astros teammate and fellow client of Excel Sports Management. Now 33, he remains one of MLB’s best bat-to-ball hitters, as his lifetime .297 average suggests. He combines those contact skills with an excellent plate approach that often sees him walk nearly as often as he strikes out. While he doesn’t offer Springer’s power, he hit 17 home runs in 2018 and 22 homers in 2019, making the AL all-star team both times.

Defensively, Brantley’s a corner outfielder at this stage in his career with the bulk of his career experience coming in left field. He was also Houston’s designated hitter 26 times in 2020, so manager Charlie Montoyo would likely include him in the team’s DH mix, too. With 34th percentile sprint speed, he’s doesn’t chase down fly balls with the same ease that he did when he first came up with a Cleveland team overseen by current Blue Jays executives Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins.

All told, he’s been worth 3.8 wins above replacement per 650 plate appearances, meaning he’s consistently been an all-star player when healthy. During the shortened 2020, he generated 1.7 WAR according to Baseball-Reference, and the year before that he was worth 4.8 WAR.

Where exactly the Blue Jays go from here is unclear, but it stands to reason that a deal with Brantley would be a precursor to more. As soon news of advanced talks broke Wednesday, industry speculation began about possible trades involving Lourdes Gurriel Jr. or Randal Grichuk. It’s even possible the Blue Jays already have a framework in place for a possible deal involving one of those players (Gurriel Jr., who has three years and $14.7 million remaining on his contract before one final year of arbitration eligibility in 2024, has far more trade value of the two).

Regardless, the additions of Springer and Brantley would give the Blue Jays one of the best lineups in the American League. From here, the Blue Jays have further needs on the infield and on the pitching staff, but this week has already been extremely productive for a team looking to build on its first playoff appearance in four seasons.

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Blue Jays agree to three-year deal with OF Brantley – TSN

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The Toronto Blue Jays have not added Michael Brantley, yet. 

Contrary to earlier reports, ESPN’s Jeff Passan writes there is no agreement in place as of yet between the two sides. He notes the Blue Jays are still in on Brantley, and could still reach a deal with the veteran outfielder.

After the Jays reached a six-year, $150 million agreement with Springer late Tuesday night, TSN Blue Jays Reporter Scott Mitchell tweeted there were “legit legs to the Michael Brantley package deal” and the Blue Jays are very open to it.

Mitchell noted Tuesday night that adding Brantley, a 33-year-old left fielder, would create an outfield logjam, but the Jays could use the surplus to upgrade their pitching on the trade market.

Brantley had been the mark of consistency at the plate during his lengthy big league career and that continued once he arrived with the Houston Astros after the 2018 season.

Brantley has hit .309 combined over the past two seasons, good for eighth best in baseball over that span.

Prior to his tenure in Houston, Brantley is known for the 10 seasons he spent with Cleveland, appearing in 1,051 games during that time period. He is a four-time All-Star and a one-time Silver Slugger Award winner (2014).

Brantley was originally selected by the Milwaukee Brewers in the seventh round of the 2005 MLB Draft and arrived in Cleveland in a 2008 trade deadline deal that saw left-hander C.C. Sabathia head to Milwaukee.

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Edmonton Oilers coming apart at seams through first four games of season – Edmonton Sun

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Article content continued

There’s no word on whether one of them is Maple Leafs Zamboni driver David Ayres.

The Montreal Canadiens’ Joel Armia (40) celebrates teammate Alexander Romanov’s goal scored on Edmonton Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen (19) at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Jan. 18, 2021. Photo by Ed Kaiser /Postmedia

With Stuart Skinner as the current backup, having a total of zero games of NHL experience, the Oilers are going to be relying heavily on Koskinen, who looked better in the second game against Montreal, but still gave up two soft goals in the loss — one on a wrist shot from the blue line and the other from behind the goal line.

“Yeah of course this is not what we wanted and we can’t get frustrated,” said Koskinen, who has faced 145 shots and conceded 15 goals. “It’s only four games done and we have to keep the work ethic and find a way to win games. It’s going to be a long push and we need to be ready when we play against the Leafs in a few days.”

The Oilers are going to need better than a 3.80 goals-against average and .897 save percentage to get back into the hunt. They’re also going to need the power play to be much better.

A unit that scored once on every three opportunities last season, has two goals on 18 man-advantage situations this year and has already given up two shorthanded goals.

Not having James Neal on the top unit hurts, but Barrie has not made the impact expected yet and his biggest contribution to date was not inadvertently breaking up a drop pass from Draisaitl to McDavid, which led to a highlight-reel goal against the Vancouver Canucks.

Edmonton Oilers Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) deflects the puck toward Montreal Canadiens Jake Allen (34) during NHL action at Rogers Place in Edmonton, January 18, 2021. Ed Kaiser/Postmedia
Edmonton Oilers Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) deflects the puck toward Montreal Canadiens Jake Allen (34) during NHL action at Rogers Place in Edmonton, January 18, 2021. Photo by Ed Kaiser /Postmedia

“I think we have to shoot the puck more,” Tippett said. “We had some chances but you’ve got to bury some of those chances. Montreal’s doing a good job around the front of your net and you’ve got to pay the price to score. And we didn’t bury the chances and we didn’t shoot the puck enough.

“You look at the two games, I think we had 10 power plays and we came out minus-2 on power plays. That’s an area that should be one of our strengths but it wasn’t the last two games.”

The Oilers can’t rely on McDavid and Draisaitl scoring four points per game to win. The supporting cast put together by Holland on a shoestring budget, after paying the top three forwards $27-million combined, has to start punching above its weight.

If they can’t, then those four playoff spots in the North Division could pull away in a hurry.

Email: dvandiest@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @DerekVanDiest

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