Coyotes add Taylor Hall for the present… but what about the future?
PHOENIX — There’s a commonly-used phrase in the hockey world when it comes to trades: “You’ve got to give to get.”
The Arizona Coyotes gave prospect defenseman Kevin Bahl, prospect forwards Nick Merkley and Nate Schnarr, a conditional first-round pick in 2020 and a conditional third-round pick in 2021 to the New Jersey Devils.
But what they did they get?
At the very least, Arizona is getting former Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall for the rest of this season. He is, however, on an expiring deal, and the announcement of the trade was not followed up with the announcement of a contract extension. There’s a chance he could go test the market when he becomes a free agent on July 1 next year, but re-signing also isn’t out of the picture.
“I’ve been open-minded with everything this year,” Hall said. “I feel like some of the reporting regarding my contract situation has been a little bit off. I’ve been open to anything and I haven’t closed the book on signing with any team prior to July 1. Talking to [general manager] John Chayka, that’s something that we can discuss as time goes on. But I think both sides are really comfortable with just playing and letting the contract stuff sort itself out.”
Whether Hall would’ve been willing or not, Chayka felt that trying to get an extension done in concert with a trade wouldn’t have made a lot of sense.
“The goal of this deal was certainly to get a player here for the long term that’s an elite player,” Chayka said. “Having said that, I think we had a bit of a different view on trying to extend the player throughout this process. Our view is we want Taylor to want to be here if he is extending. The only way for him to really understand that is to actually be here.
“So it’s a good opportunity for us to bring him in. He wants to win, we want to win. We want to showcase what we’re about and what we have. And like I said, if I just called him up and asked him to extend, I don’t think that would’ve been the right process. So now we get a chance to show him and get that experience of what we’re doing here. It’s a bet on ourselves, but again, it’s a calculated gamble.”
Indeed, the Coyotes are betting on themselves. They’re betting that they’ll continue their trend in a positive direction, remain in a playoff spot (they were in first place when the trade was announced) and that Hall will see Arizona as a sustainable contender. He’s spent enough time missing the playoffs with Edmonton and New Jersey, and likely has little patience for more of the same.
“We know Taylor wants to win, and that’s kind of the main criteria for him to re-sign, and we feel like we’ve got a chance to win for a long time here,” Chayka said. “So again, we feel like our opportunity is as good as anybody’s.”
Hall’s cap hit is currently $6 million, but that surely will go up. Clayton Keller’s cap hit will be $7.15 million next year, Oliver Ekman-Larsson is at $8.25 million, Phil Kessel at $6.8 million and Nick Schmaltz at $5.85 million. Even so, Hall would probably be the Coyotes’ highest-paid player if he re-signs.
It will take, among other things, more support from new owner Alex Meruelo to get a long-term contract locked in for Hall.
“I don’t think the deal happens without his support and his involvement,” Chayka said of Meruelo. “The key with him is he’s got a huge desire and will and drive to win. But he’s also a great strategic mind, so he understands the value of players and the value of building a team. When we went through the scenarios where, again, we’re taking on some risk — buying the team was a risk.
“He’s a guy that understands when there’s asymmetric risk and opportunity to create value, you’ve got to pursue those opportunities.”
A report from The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun said the Coyotes would have to give up another first-round pick if they re-sign Hall. That alone is costly, but consider also the cost of the contract itself.
But as of Monday, many hockey games sit between the trade and Hall’s pending free agency. Arizona is hoping to win quite a few of those.
“Really, [the contract is] not what I’m focused on,” Hall said. “I just want to come and help win games and get to the playoffs and do some damage there. Regarding my contract, I don’t think it’s healthy for anyone for that to be the focus right now, and I’m glad that I can go to a situation and not have to think about that for a while and just play.”
Salary figures provided by CapFriendly.