The Edmonton Oilers announced today that Taylor Hall has officially signed his contract with the Oklahoma City Barons and speculation is strong that Hall is expected to join the line-up this coming Friday night when the Barons host the Houston Aeros.
This news is not unexpected as Hall reported in mid-November to complete the final stages of his rehab in anticipation of joining Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in Oklahoma City.
The biggest hope for the Oilers and their fans is that this means Hall is truly healthy. As noted in my story linked to above:
Given the financial (details involved), it seems likely that Hall is actually going to be taking a pay cut to get back on the ice, which one would hope means that he won't be doing so before he is physically healed. If that is the case, and Hall is 100% when he finally steps on to the ice in a game situation for the Barons, then that might be the best piece of news to come from the lockout."
Also noted in that story are the potential insurance implications for Hall. A little more light was shed on that topic by Elliotte Friedman this week in his always excellent 30 thought column.
From that story, Friedman spoke with former NHLer Basil McRae who is now involved in the insurance industry providing such policies to pro athletes:
McRae said there is a formula that determines your premium, but several variables must be plugged in. "There's age. The numbers will be different for a 22 year-old versus a 32 year-old," he said. "There's his current contract. Does it have one year left or seven years? If it's a longer-term deal, does the player want to protect all of it? Does he want coverage for temporary total disability [eg., a knee injury] or permanent total disability [like a career-ending eye injury]?"
Even more interestingly:
Most expensive policy? Someone out there is paying $40,000 a month to cover their NHL deal. Yikes! McRae wouldn't say who.
While I don't expect that Hall is at the top of the insurance list, I would wager that his young age, draft pedigree and NHL performance to-date, injury history, impending new 7 year, $42 Million contract and potential for future earnings beyond that would put him squarely in the upper-echelon of players when it comes to the cost of such a policy. It's actually pretty conceivable that it could be costing Taylor Hall money to play right now.
The other piece of news that could be tied to this is that yesterday the Barons recalled Cameron Abney and Teigen Zahn while assigning Kristians Pelss to Stockton of the ECHL. Given some of the shots that have been taken at the Oilers' high-profile players, including a knee-on-knee hit against Jordan Eberle recently, and Hall set to joing the line-up coming off major shoulder surgery, the team is trying to add a deterrent for the opposition to take shots at their elite crop of young players.
While I'm not a believer in that kind of move as something that will intimidate the opposition into steering clear of Hall & Co., it's apparent the team is doing what they believe is right to try and protect their assets in the hopes that they will eventually be able to get the NHL season going.
For today though, the headline is simply that Taylor Hall, his doctors, and the Oiler franchise believes he is healthy enough to play, and that can't be seen as anything but a good thing.