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Weekend Flurries: Avalanche win again and Taylor Hall speculation runs rampant

Where is Taylor Hall going to be traded?

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Colorado Avalanche Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Last night got pretty wacky in a hurry. Shortly before the Colorado Avalanche were set to take on Taylor Hall and the New Jersey Devils, only to have Hall was pulled from the lineup for “precautionary reasons” just before game time. Obviously, speculation ran wild as to whether or not he was on the verge of being traded.

The story I’ve heard (from two different sources, one of which works with a major Canadian sports outlet and has never given me reason to doubt him) is that Ray Shero was presented with an offer for Hall yesterday that he was willing to take. Neither source could confirm but are fairly certain that the offer came from the Avalanche. Shero then pulled Hall from the lineup and gave the other suitors “one last chance” to top the offer and at least one other team has done that - or at least made on offer to make Shero question the original one. That’s when things got crazy and twitter exploded with questions.

It seems as though the Arizona Coyotes are the one team that made the hardest push last night - with St. Louis, Dallas and a “mystery team” also getting in on the bidding. As it sits now, people around the league are operating under the assumption that the Yotes are the leaders in the clubhouse but that this won’t be dragged out too much further.

The Coyotes are right up against the salary cap ceiling and are using most of Marian Hossa’s contract on LTIR, so if they’re going to make a deal work, they’re going to need to send some money back in New Jersey. If they are truly the front runner, this might be what’s dragging the process out.

There are a number of options to make the finances work. The Devils could be interested in adding Antti Raanta to fix their goaltending position. Would the Coyotes be willing to move a very promising young defender like Jakob Chychrun in order to being in Hall (if they are it would explain why they’re the most likely trade partner). Maybe there’s another creative option that includes putting Niklas Hjalmarsson on LTIR and dealing with the cap crunch later.

However this ends up, it seems as though Taylor Hall’s girlfriend gave us the biggest clue last night that a trade is coming very soon.

Whether he ends up with the Avalanche or not, Joe Sakic was very interested in adding Taylor Hall and made a strong push. At the end of the day he might decide that the price has gotten too high. Regardless of where Hall ends up, it points Sakic’s belief that this team is a true contender this season and opens the door for the potential of some big moves being made before the trade deadline.

Oh yeah, the game. In what wasn’t their most impressive performance of the season, the Avalanche were able to beat the Devils 3-1 and, in the process, have extended their point streak to nine games. They also jumped back above the St. Louis Blues for first in the Western Conference.

After a rather uneventful first ten minutes, Gabriel Landeskog opened the scoring midway through the first period with the man advantage. It is the captain’s sixth goal of the season and a good sign that the power play might get straightened out now that he and Mikko Rantanen are both healthy and back in the lineup.

After working with a one goal lead through the beginning of the second period, it was none other than the red hot Val Nichushkin who was able to give the Avs a buffer. It was Nichushkin’s sixth goal in his last ten games and ended up being the game winner.

After Mirco Mueller cut the Avalanche lead in half with a little more than five minutes remaining in the game, Nathan MacKinnon added the insurance in the final minute to seal the victory. With the goal and an assist on the Landeskog goal, MacKinnon is already up to 50 points on the season and is well on his way to setting another career high.

Continuing to fill in for the injured Philipp Grubauer, Pavel Francouz was great in the Avalanche net again last night. He stopped 37 of the 38 shots he faced and has improved his record this season to 9-2-1 on the season.

Also of note in this one, Tyson Jost tied MacKinnon with a game-high five shots on net while carrying a very impressive 72% shot share despite getting only one offensive zone start. He hasn’t been contributing on the score sheet - and has caught the ire of some fans as a result - but Jost’s play has been sneaky good recently.

The team took care of a little bit of book keeping after the game as they transferred Cale Makar to the IR. This doesn’t mean a whole lot beyond the team calling up another defender as insurance for the road games in St. Louis and Chicago next week.