Monday, December 16, 2019

Taylor Hall Jersey Card

The speculation can end: the New Jersey Devils traded Taylor Hall (with Blake Speers) to the Arizona Coyotes for a guaranteed first-rounder, a third-rounder that could become a second- or even another first-rounder (conditions apply) and a trio of B-level prospects Nick Merkley, Nate Schnarr and Kevin Bahl. The Devils are retaining 50 percent of Hall's salary

The return is underwhelming, but the Devils see it as addition by subtraction: they got rid of a massive distraction, a player looking for a big payday that they've been courting and trying to please for three seasons who didn't want to re-sign, and all it cost them is firing a mediocre coach (John Hynes). They'll get to tank for a good first-round spot after winning two of the last three lotteries, and stockpile prospects of their own.

Don't get me wrong, Hall is an excellent first-line winger, an All-Star, but his head and next contract are overblown by the Hart Trophy that bears his name instead of the more-deserving Nathan MacKinnon two years ago. He doesn't make his linemates better and only once played in a state of grace worthy of a first-overall draft selection (2010, Edmonton Oilers) - and that year, his 93 points were 41 better than the runner-up on his team, 18-year-old rookie Nico Hischier. He didn't help anyone on his team despite being near the 100-point mark; Connor McDavid turns career nobodies into 20-goal scorers and brings Leon Draisaitl - a very talented player, one of the ten best forwards in the world - in the conversation as one of the three best players of this era. Hall's 14% shot rating in 2017-18 was also 50% higher than his career average and it was likely pure luck that it was in that year that he didn't miss 20 games to injury - two chance events happening at once.

And yet, Coyotes GM John Chayka - whom I wouldn't rate among the 10 best of his profession - made a perfect trade in acquiring his services. If he uses Hall correctly, as a rental, he'll be telling his team - currently sitting in first place in the wide-open Pacific Division - that he sees their effort and will help them go as far as they can without hurting the core and the current team spirit and simply adding an All-Star to the mix, perhaps the one player who can wake Phil Kessel up from his half-season slumber. He's thanking his veterans for their patience in those lean years where they kept failing to make the playoffs; he's showing his young guns he'll always try to give them a chance to win if they help themselves first.

He's also letting Hall look like a good team player by giving him the chance to join a club that will now be looking to contend, so he can earn a big payday elsewhere come July 1st.

With good goaltending, a decent defence and a balanced-if-unimpressive forwards corps, the Coyotes already had a shot at reaching the postseason in their division, the way Rick Tocchet has coached this year. Now they can make a dent in them, and perhaps win a round or two and build on that experience for the future.

The Yotes play in the same division as the Oilers, Calgary Flames and Vegas Golden Knights - three teams I follow and love to watch. Plus, they should have moved years ago. But it's hard not to root for this move to work.

Then again, it's Hall, so he could very well get injured for the remainder of the season soon and Arizona could miss the playoffs and end up wining the lottery.

Here's Hall wearing the Oilers' orange (then-third) uniform, on card #FF-TH from Upper Deck's 2015-16 Ice set and Frozen Fabrics sub-set:
It features a blue game-worn jersey swatch that is probably from Edmonton's home jersey.

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