First thing to wake up to today:
Told that, as of now, Taylor Hall is not interested in signing an extension with the NJ Devils. He has 1-year left on his contract. More here: https://t.co/PLUlnm50My
— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) June 3, 2019
Now, as most know, Taylor Hall has been a fascination of mine for a while, though that hardly makes me unique. And it would make sense that Hall might not want to sign an extension in New Jersey. If for no other reason, some players are just very curious to do the free agent tour, to see what all their options are, or hell, just to be courted by at least 2/3rds of the league and feel like the big dick. Fuck, why wouldn’t you? Oh right, injury or down performance or something. Still, if Hall were to go on the open market next summer, you could make the argument it would be an even bigger deal than when John Tavares did, because JT didn’t have a Hart on his resume.
Second, even with Jack Hughes coming to town, the Devils are at least two years from serious contention and possibly longer, and might not even be a playoff team next season. They were 26 points off the pace last season, have no defense to speak of really, and MacKenzie Blackwood may or may not be a goalie. You can see where Hall might not want to bet whatever’s left of his prime on that hunch.
Further ratcheting up the frenzy is that Hall’s cap number is just $6M this year, which is pretty manageable for anyone remotely desperate. Off the top of my head, teams around contention that would want and need Hall are the Penguins, Bruins, Panthers, Jackets, Canes, Flyers, Islanders, Stars, Blues, Predators, Flames, and I’m probably missing a few. Look, everyone needs Taylor Hall. Everyone could find a spot for him.
Oh, and New Jersey is just a shitty place to play. Let’s end the case there. It’s fucking New Jersey. I just want to pretend that Hall hates Springsteen as much as I do and has had enough. Let me have it.
Which brings us to the Hawks. There’s no question that they have a hole in the top six. Hall would actually be something of an odd fit in some ways. He’s not the prototypical left winger to maximize playing with Kane, because he also likes to have the puck and create his own space and shot. Not that the two of them couldn’t make it work, but he’s not the spot-up shooter than Top Cat is on the power play or Sharp was in his heyday or Panarin could turn into when need be. Which means you’d probably be better off playing Hall with Toews, except there’s no one really on the right side of that. Again, you could put Kane there and have an absolute doomsday of a top line with Toews doing more of the finding space thing, leaving Hall to create it, and then hammock Strome and Top Cat on the second line.
Both of these scenarios mean either flipping Saad to the right side, which he’s never really taken to, or moving him permanently to the third line, or involving him in this trade or another. Funny how Saad and Hall make the same amount of money, no?
You may think it doesn’t behoove the Hawks to go after what is essentially a rental, but I think it’s perfect. One, it keeps his trade value down. And this is the kind of player that you start the process of drafting Bowen Byram, and then packaging some combination of Boqvist, Mitchell, Beaudein, Jokiharju (maybe with Saad or Anisimov) to improve your team now. Second, it gives you flexibility next year and evaluation time this year. Perhaps Kubalik, Kahun, or Kurashev really pop this season, along with another 40 goals from Top Cat, and you thank Hall for his services while you commit his money to other players you think you can step up. Maybe the cap takes a bigger leap up. I don’t know, who cares, fuck you.
Yes, I realize that Hall isn’t a defenseman. But his cap hit isn’t so destructive for one season that you can’t find an additional upgrade there as well, whether or not the Hawks draft Byram and whether or not he then skips right to the NHL. Remember, Crawford’s number comes off the books next year too, and you might jettison Saad’s and/or Anisimov’s in the next year as well. There is flexibility for Hall and oh I don’t know…a certain #65 together for a season.
You can actually do this without forfeiting your future. The #3 pick allows you that. Your director of amateur scouting just came out and said that they’ll never get all these defensive prospects on the roster, so you know you have to make a move or two anyway. Play your cards right, and you should still have at least two of your four kids already in the system on the blue line, Byram/Turcotte and whatever else you pick up this draft.
You want to get back in the headlines? You want to vault yourself back into contention in a division that appears like it’s only going to get worse? Then grow a pair and make this move before everyone realizes Pagnotta is actually just a glorified bullhorn.