Well, it happened. After several days of rumour after rumour regarding forward Taylor Hall, the Arizona Coyotes won the Hall sweepstakes. He was dealt by the New Jersey Devils along with prospect Blake Speers for three prospects from the desert. The major key was the Devils acquiring defenceman Kevin Bahl. They also received forward Nick Merkley and Nate Schnarr, plus a couple of draft picks.
Big Trade Should Make Coyotes a Playoff Team
There was excessive excitement in the desert over the summer when the Coyotes traded for Phil Kessel. So, six months later we are again feeling like this team is beginning to look a lot like a playoff-contending team. One might say the Coyotes received their Christmas gift early. If the addition of Taylor Hall doesn’t push this team to the postseason, it’s unclear what exactly will.
To add sweetener to the deal (gee, the Devils could have gift wrapped Hall) the New Jersey club was so into making the trade happen that they even retained 50 percent of Hall’s salary. Now that maybe what made it work, since the Arizona team is right up against the cap. Adding Hall’s $3 million cap hit now has the team at $85,471,903. They do have the relief of Marian Hossa‘s LTIR salary of $5.275 million.
It’s certain that GM John Chayka wouldn’t have gone for the deal unless the Devils retained some salary. New Jersey feels that they can rebuild with the three prospects they received, plus the future conditional draft picks for the next two years.
For the Coyotes, this could very well put them in the situation they’ve been striving for… making the playoffs. They will definitely be a better offensive team with Hall in the lineup. Look for quite an improvement from their current 24th ranking in the NHL averaging just 2.63 goals per game. Their defence is top-notch coming in third allowing just 2.34 goals a game.
Giving up Young Prospects is Never Easy
Chayka had a plan. He had draft picks in his treasure chest and now saw a reason to use them to give this team a shot at the playoffs. Prospects are always a gamble. Some players never develop while others take a while to get there. While losing a good defensive prospect like Bahl may have been tough to deal with, the Coyotes are deep at defence and knew it.
Nick Merkley never has transformed into an NHL player… at least not yet. Perhaps he will get an opportunity to do so in New Jersey. The main issue with him was staying healthy. He has already suffered two major knee surgeries and that curtailed his development.
Nate Schnarr may be the sleeper here in the deal. His OHL statistics with the Guelph Storm are impressive. He accumulated 69 goals, 112 assists in 182 games. After tallying 34 goals, 68 assists in his 2018-19 season he was promoted to the AHL Tucson Roadrunners. There he has only one goal, eight assists in 22 games.
How Taylor Hall Will Help Going Forward
The Coyotes needed another shot in the arm to ignite their meagre offence and Hall may be just the player to accomplish that. Although he has only six goals, he has 19 assists in 30 games this season.
Imagine if you will a line consisting of Nick Schmaltz, Phil Kessel, and Taylor Hall. If that doesn’t improve the offensive numbers, it’s not certain what will. Although both Hall and Kessel are not scoring goals at their usual pace, the season is not quite half over yet. Give it time. Kessel has just seven goals to his credit, and don’t think that adding a player of Hall’s magnitude won’t help get Phil back to his old self.
Hall’s Pending Unrestricted Free Agency
Of course many are defining this trade as the Coyotes acquiring a rental player. That theory may be all wet. Hall told the sportsnet.ca staff, “I’ve been open-minded with everything this year. I haven’t closed the book on signing with any team prior to July 1. Talking to GM John Chayka, that’s something we can discuss as time goes on.”
That may be all fine and good, but if one takes a glance at the Coyotes capfriendly.com page it becomes quite clear that they may have difficulty in signing three UFA’s including Hall and three RFA’s. Not even counting them against the cap (unless it increases significantly) they will only have $754,167 left in cap space. Something will need to change. And, there is adequate time to solve that.
For now, for the first time since 2012, the Arizona Coyotes have an excellent opportunity to be playing in the postseason.