When the New Jersey Devils made the move to acquire Taylor Hall from the Edmonton Oilers in the most impactful 30 minutes in NHL history, many thought that he would bounce back and lead them to the playoffs. Well, Hall did bounce back, putting up 39 goals and 93 points in 76 games en route to capturing the Hart Trophy. Although Hall is known to provide his team with some magic when it comes to lottery odds (the Oilers won in thrice with him in their organization, and New Jersey twice) he quickly became a leader and a key component of the Devils new-look roster.
Sadly, the roster that many saw making the playoffs was dead on arrival. Every single new acquisition bombed and their best players on the roster were rookie Jack Hughes and former 1st overall pick Nico Hischier. With the Devils missing the playoffs last year, and seemingly looking to finish very low this year, it looked like Hall was ready for a move.
The major point of contention was that Taylor Hall’s agent did not want to discuss an extension during the season, making a trade-and-sign style move (as we saw last year with Mark Stone and the Vegas Golden Knights) impossible, and thus reducing the return Hall could fetch the Devils.
There was said to be many teams interested in the winger, with the names of teams like Arizona and Florida in the mix. Prospects like Kevin Bahl and Aleksi Heponiemi were being tossed around online, but alas, it was the Arizona Coyotes that stuck to their guns and ended pulling the trigger before the December 19th Roster Freeze.
If you look at this as a pure rental trade and compare it to other top wingers in the past, this is about fair value in our opinion. Let’s take a look at past rental trades for similar players:
Rental Market for Elite Players
Matt Duchene for a 2019 first-round pick, prospects Vitaly Abramov and Jonathan Davidsson
Winnipeg-New York Rangers
Kevin Hayes for Brendan Lemieux, a 2019 first-round pick and a 2019 conditional fourth-round pick.
Paul Stastny for 2018 first-round draft pick, Erik Foley and 2020 conditional fourth-round draft pick
Evander Kane for (2019) conditional first-round draft pick and a conditional fourth-round draft pick
A quick look at the rental market will indicate that you could expect a 1st round pick, a solid prospect (B level) or two, and an additional conditional pick. When looking at the players above, even if you include positional bias, you could say that Hall’s value was currently similar to that of Duchene’s prior to the 2019 NHL trade deadline.
The Deal or Steal?
So what did the Devils finally get, and who
paid their price? That would be the Arizona Coyotes everyone. Yes, really.
Here’s the deal: Taylor Hall ( 50% retained salary) for 1 a 2020 1st round pick, Kevin Bahl, Nick Merkley, Nate Schnarr, and a conditional 3rd round pick *
* The 3rd round pick becomes a 1st round pick if Hall re-signs with the Coyotes and the Coyotes win a playoff round.
** The 3rd round pick becomes a 2nd round pick if Hall re-signs with the Coyotes or the Coyotes win a playoff round.
Now how does this rank up to past rental trades, given that Hall is a former 90-point winger with a Hart trophy under his belt? Slightly underwhelming, but within reasonably fair territory. Although Ray Shero, the GM of the Devils, was unable to extract top prospects like Victor Soderstrom (2019 1st round pick) or Barret Hayton (2018 1st round pick), this deal is not all bad for the Devils. Let’s take a look at what they acquired:
The Haul for Hall
1) 2020 1st round pick: Coyotes currently sit in a five-way tie for 6th place, which means that, should they maintain their winning ways this season, this pick will range between the 21st and 27th overall pick (unless they reach the Conference Finals). This is some pretty solid value and a staple of any rental trade.
2) Conditional 3rd round pick: These conditions are both enticing and scary at the same time. At the rate the Coyotes are going, they will likely make the playoffs. Therefore, the chances of them possibly winning a playoff series could be realistic if Hall plays to his Hart-caliber style.
Do I think Hall will re-sign with the Coyote? Only if they grossly overpay, which I doubt they will.
In my honest opinion, this pick could become a
2nd, at best, which is still a great asset.
3) Kevin Bahl: The former 2018 2nd round pick is a behemoth of a defenseman at 6’7 and 240 lbs. That’s NHL size right there. I mean, watching this guy play would make a guy like Brian Burke scream out the word truculence to the top of his lungs.
He plays a very strong defensive game, using his long reach to stop forwards from entering the zone and to cut passing lanes. He has a solid first pass and possess a strong, but not always dangerous, slap shot. He will remind you of other tall defensemen like Jamie Oleksiak in the NHL, who use their size and speed to shut-down the opposition.
Bahl projects as a top-4 D and that’s great considering that the Devils already have their Left Defensive stud on the left side in Ty Smith. Having both Smith and Bahl for years to come will be a welcomed site for Devils fans, who have been clamoring for more defense.
4) Nick Merkley: I was just talking about how Merkley would make for a great reclamation project for a team that was weak on the wings. The former 2015 1st round pick was almost a forgotten prospect right after being drafted. In his draft year, he put up 90 points in in 72 games for the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets, but showed no sign of offensive improvement in his remaining season in Junior. In fact, he regressed, putting up just 63 points in 63 games in his 4th season with the Rocket.
However, once signed by the Coyotes and assigned to their AHL affiliate in Tucson, Merkley revived hope in his potential by putting up 39 points in 38 games and earning himself a call-up to the big leagues for one game.
Since then, he hasn’t been able to find that magic again and hasn’t been able to stay healthy enough to make an impact. He has the talent, the playmaking ability and prowess to potentially carve himself a role on a team’s top-9, especially one like NJ, which should be trading some more pieces in the near future. He projects as a speedy top-9 forward that could chip in offensively and play the boards well, but the clock is ticking on the 22-year old.
5) Nate Schnarr: Schnarr, the Coyotes 3rd round pick in 2017, is a hulking, 6’3 center that is best known for his puck protection and smart plays. He was seen as a long-term project by the Coyotes, who let him play his full four year in the OHL for the Guelph Storm.
Schnarr wasn’t on the Coyotes’ radar until last season, where he saw a 63-point jump in his production, going from 39 points in 57 games to 102 points in 65 games. He was a major component of the Guelph Storm’s run to the OHL Championship as he was given the hardest defensive matchups, while Montreal Canadiens’ prospect Nick Suzuki took care of the offense.
Schnarr is no slouch offensively, as his size and deceptive speed will serve him well in the pros. He’s already got 9 points in 22 games for the Tucson Roadrunners (great name) and was on the upswing prior to the completion of this deal.
The Verdict on the Trade
For the Coyotes:
Ultimately, I believe this is a great deal for the Coyotes on many counts.
1) The drafting of Victor Soderstrom in 2018, who is a righ-handed defenseman comfortable on both sides and the signing of captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson to an 8-year contract made it so that Kevin Bahl, the main piece after the 1st round pick, expendable.
2) Schnarr and Merkley didn’t have much chance of cracking the roster moving forward with the emergence of Dvorak, Garland and the acquisition of Kessel, Schmaltz and Hinostroza over the last 12 months.
3) The Coyotes are at the top of the Pacific Division. Yes, you read that right. They are currently one point ahead of the Oilers with a game in hand. If they ever had to try and go for it, now is a good time, because their roster is doing great things defensively, but required some additional firepower upfront to truly establish themselves as a force in the West
4) The trade also included prospect Blake Speers, a former 2015 3rd round pick who seems to have lost his way within the Devils organization. Once a solid junior player with serious bottom-six potential, Speears certainly needed a change of scenery and we believe the Coyotes could find use for him down the road.
For the Devils:
I feel bad for the Devils, who likely would not have gotten much more had they waited until the Trade Deadline in February. Acquiring a 1st, conditional lower pick ( which increases based on performance and other factors), a solid prospect and one or two B-C prospects is approximately what you should expect.
I think they have a serious need moving forward when it comes to top-4 left-handed defensemen in their pipeline and they just solved it with this trade. Meanwhile, the acquisition of Schnarr and Merkley gives them more young depth once other pieces are moved out closer to the Trade Deadline.
The last time we saw a trade of this magnitude early in the season for a rental player, it was Thomas Vanek headed from Buffalo to the New York Islanders during the 2013-2014 season. As the Islanders fell out of a playoff spot, they traded Vanek yet again, this time to the Montreal Canadiens, for less than what they gave up to acquire him in the first place.
Should there be a monumental collapse in the desert, Hall could always switch addresses again. I’m not saying it will or likely could happen, but it is always a possibility when acquiring a top rental this early. Just something to keep an eye out for.