As the New Jersey Devils flounder near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, it is becoming more apparent that it’s only a matter of time before Taylor Hall is traded to a contender. A pending unrestricted free agent this summer, Hall’s name has been in the rumor mill as contract talks between himself and the team have stalled. At this point, an extension seems highly unlikely making Hall the big catch at this year’s NHL trade deadline.
On Hockey Night in Canada this week, Chris Johnston mentioned that the trade market for Hall is beginning to heat up as a number of teams feel it would be beneficial to work out a deal well in advance of the trade deadline. As of now the price is very high. It was mentioned that New Jersey would want to start with multiple first round picks (one of which being contingent on re-signing Hall in the summer) as well as a high-end prospect.
That would be a high price for a rental and one teams might not be willing to pay - though that’s what the Columbus Blue Jackets paid for Matt Duchene as a rental last winter and Hall is better than Duchene.
Ottawa’s trade of Mark Stone was also used as a comparison. Stone is one of the best wingers in all of hockey and the Vegas Golden Knights were able to get him without a 1st round pick involved. That said, Vegas gave up Erik Brannstrom - who was viewed as one of the best defensive prospects in all of hockey - as well as a second round pick. Stone didn’t come along with an extension, but Ottawa allowed the Golden Knights to discuss one before the trade went down. He signed an eight-year contract a week later. Knowing they would eventually get Stone signed made it a lot easier for Vegas to give up a prospect as good as Brannstrom.
Given where they are in the rebuild, New Jersey is likely going to be looking for prospects that are closer to the NHL than a first round pick this year would be. The Devils would probably want to add a guy who can play with Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier as early as next season.
Going into the 2018 draft, the Devils were big fans of Martin Kaut and might have selected him 17th overall if the Avs went in another direction. Kaut’s value has certainly fallen off since that time. He hasn’t developed the way you’d expect a first rounder to. That said, he’s still very young and likely still interests some in the Devils organization.
Would something like Kaut, a first and a roster player be enough to get a trade done? Maybe if that roster player is someone like Nikita Zadorov or Tyson Jost. Even then, New Jersey would likely be asking for a better prospect like Shane Bowers, Alex Newhook or Conor Timmins.
If we’re talking a trade like the Stone one, it’s safe to assume the Devils would ask for Bowan Byram. The fourth overall selection in this past year’s draft is one of the better defensive prospects in the NHL and would be a guy who would fit in perfectly with New Jersey. A straight up one for one deal might make sense. It would be a tough pill to swallow but a trade the Avalanche might be willing to do given how strong their group of young defenders are.
Bowen has a ton of potential but for the Avalanche, his value might be maximized as a trade chip. He’s very young and even if he makes the NHL next season, he’ll have just turned 19 and wouldn’t make the type of impact 21-year old Cale Makar has made this year. The Avalanche already have a very young blue line with Timmins in the AHL ready to make an impact at the next level.
Adding Bowan to the current group would be a great luxury to have, but he likely wouldn’t make the type of impact towards a Stanley Cup that Hall would in the current contention window.
Unlike Stone last year, Hall isn’t likely to sign an extension with the team that acquires him - at least not until after he hits free agency next summer. Hall is represented by Darren Farris, an agent that is notorious for not only driving a hard bargain - as we saw with Mitch Marner this past summer - but also advising his clients to wait on a contract. If Hall has come this close to hitting the open market, he might as well wait until July 1 before making the biggest decision of his professional life.
If he goes to the open market, there will inevitably be a bidding war for a player as good as Hall. The one up side to signing an extension before the summer is that Hall could sign for a year longer than if he goes to free agency. Would he forego a bidding war in order to have the guarantee of an extra year on his contract?
Taylor Hall would without a doubt make the Avalanche better. He is one of the few players in the league that has speed close to Nathan MacKinnon’s. The ability to throw out MacKinnon/Rantanen followed by Hall/Kadri in a playoff series is something that would give Jared Bednar a matchup advantage against just about any team in the league.
The Avalanche are going to be fighting for a playoff spot in what might be the most competitive division in the NHL. With the defending Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues putting some distance between themselves and the pack, the Avs will be battling with Dallas, Winnipeg and Nashville for playoff positioning all season.
Adding Hall to the lineup would definitely give them a leg up in that race and while the price might seem steep to some fans, renting Hall for this year’s first and a prospect makes a lot of sense - as long as that prospect isn’t someone like Byram, Timmins or Newhook. While this year’s draft is very strong, the Avalanche are going to be selecting somewhere in the 20s, so giving up that pick becomes a lot easier.
We know that Joe Sakic isn’t afraid to make a big trade. We also know that should Hall go to the open market this summer, Sakic will make a strong pitch to get him to sign with the Avs. So why wait? The Avalanche are one of the most logical landing spots for Hall. As the Trade deadline gets closer, there will be a lot of chatter. The Avalanche will be connected to a lot of players given their cap space and contention window. Many of them will be nothing more than talk. Whether a trade ends up being consummated or not, the Hall to Colorado one is a little more than just a rumor.