Taylor Hall will not be re-joining the Edmonton Oilers. Not yet, anyway. I tend to agree with the assessment that Edmonton was offering a better prospect package, rumoured to be Puljujarvi and Jones, but the Devils were hell-bent on getting a 1st round draft pick out of the deal because it would make the deal easier for Ray Shero to sell to his owners and fan base. Pity whoever the Oilers choose with their 1st round pick this year… he’ll forever be the guy we didn’t give up for Hall. No pressure, kid, whoever you will end up being.
Ray Shero needed a guaranteed 1st round pick, as opposed to conditional, because I think he knows Taylor Hall is not interested in re-signing in-season. Elliotte Friedman has said multiple times that Hall has been very interested and inquisitive about the process John Tavares went through in 2018. Hall has spent his entire career on teams that lacked a strong supporting cast, he wants to be on a perennial playoff team, and his first "big money" contract was relatively team friendly. His next contract will be what works for him, not whatever team he is on in April. Hall had team loyalty in Edmonton, but he became a mercenary the day Chiarelli traded him. That is why I think Taylor Hall will be a UFA on July 1, 2020.
Even if Hall goes to free agency, that doesn’t mean he won’t be in Arizona next year. He just really wants to play the field.
Reasons Hall will not re-sign in Arizona:
- Taylor Hall wants to play with elite, mature talent. Arizona does not have that. Keller, Dvorak and Schmaltz are nice players, but are they any better than Hischier, Hughes and Zacha will be by next year? Phil Kessel? Kyle Palmieri is just as good right now. The only difference between Arizona and New Jersey is team defense and goaltending. Both of Arizona’s goalies are putting up great numbers, New Jersey shat the bed in that category this season with a washed-up Schnieder and a rookie. Arizona’s blueline isn’t that much better than New Jersey on paper. OEL matches with Subban, Goligoski matches with Vatanen, Chychrun and Demers with Severson and Butcher… it’s pretty close. Subban has been a disappointment but OEL hasn’t exactly been a $8 million d-man this year either. Arizona is playing team defense the way NJ did in 2017-18, and they’re getting rock solid goaltending from a couple of backups. The point being, in July this Arizona team will not look much better than what will be in New Jersey and that is not what Taylor Hall wants for the next 5-7 years of his life.
- Hall was an elite star who actually liked playing in Edmonton. The culture of fanatic locals in a relatively small city, and the bitter cold winters… he embraced it. Hall appreciates hockey culture. He’s going to Arizona, enough said.
- The Coyotes might have been in 1st in the Pacific when they acquired Hall, but that is a tenuous spot to be in. Edmonton, Calgary and Vegas were within 2 points on the day of the trade. It is entirely possible Arizona misses the playoffs, especially if San Jose, Vancouver or Nashville get on a hot streak.
- Arizona doesn’t have a lot of cap space. Years of taking on bad contracts has caught up to them. They’re already at $79 m in contracts for 15 players next year, unless they can unload Hossa’s AAV. Either way it diminishes their ability to add more depth around Hall.
Reasons Hall might re-sign in Arizona:
- As a counter to the notion that Hall wants to play in a hockey market, warm climates and anonymity among a less interested fanbase does weird things to Canadian hockey players. They love it.
- I’d consider Hall a charter member of the active players who the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast adores. Obviously he and Whitney go way back to their Edmonton roommate days. Paul Bissonnette is the Coyotes radio analyst, lives in Arizona, and will likely try selling Hall on staying there. Biz is invested in the Coyotes… not financially, but indirectly and emotionally. I don’t discount that group of hockey "bro’s" having some influence on this. Chiclets has become a huge influence in hockey media whether you like them or not.
- The Coyotes could burn more futures to add some "win now" talent, it just depends on what shakes out of the trees between now and July. At the moment there’s not a huge market of mature talent on the supply side. I don’t see Arizona acquiring Kopitar, Getzlaf or Toews, and the rest of the "out of it" teams don’t have any older stars who would move the needle. One wildly crazy idea is if the Leafs continue to spiral and Auston Matthews does not have his heart in the organization after all that has gone on, do the Yotes move the timeline up and go after Matthews now? I know, that’s crazy.
A thicker plot:
The other possibility out there is, as mentioned previously, Arizona starts to slide in the standings and decides to trade Hall at the deadline to recover some prospects. Arizona’s success this year hinges on their ability to keep the puck out of the net. An injury or some sort of regression in that area could make this team look pretty mediocre and on the outside looking in by February. Hall could be re-rented to someone else, and Arizona could fetch a decent price especially with only a $3 m AAV for whoever picks up Hall.
This has probably been the most fascinating pending UFA situation in a long, long time and I don’t think the roller coaster will be over until July.