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Keeping Coyotes intact was a ‘prerequisite’ of Taylor Hall trade

(L-R) General manager John Chayka, Taylor Hall and head coach Rick Tocchet of the Arizona Coyotes pose together during an introductory press conference at Gila River Arena on December 18, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona Coyotes’ trade of Taylor Hall on Monday was preceded by a wealth of speculation across the internet.

Such is the nature of blockbuster trades. But after some Coyotes fans wondered if a fan favorite would be dealt to get the former Hart Trophy winner, it turned out that no players on the active roster at all were moved. Instead, the return for Hall was three prospects and two draft picks.

“That was a prerequisite for the move,” general manager John Chayka said. “I think it’s a tight group. Taylor will experience it. We’re proud of those guys. They’ve grown up together. We’ve gone through some adversity together now and built up some scar tissue. I think they’ve earned the right to add to the group and supplement the group. That was certainly something we were looking to do when we acquired a player like Taylor, was to add.

“To keep the group together, it was almost too good to be true, and we were very fortunate and opportunistic. With support from ownership, these things come together, and so far it’s been great.”

The players found out about the Hall trade just like everyone else, mostly through social media. The team was on the plane, about to fly to San Jose for Tuesday night’s game, when the news broke.

“I knew it was a big piece and something that was really going to help us, but the best part about it was to be able to keep the group that we have and add him,” forward Derek Stepan said. “That was something that I think carried big weight for me, because I think we’ve developed something here for a while. And he’ll fit in just great with what we’ve got going on here.

“We were all really excited that we got to keep our group together.”

Stepan said players were “holding their breath,” so to speak, wondering who would go the other way. What’s more, the news came down while many of the players’ mothers were present; the trip to San Jose was the moms’ trip for the Coyotes, where the moms traveled with the team and watched the game in San Jose from a suite.

It’s not only important that the group is the same Wednesday as it was on Sunday; the Coyotes are a team with former Stanley Cup-winners, veteran players, young players and lots of in-between. It’s a mix that has gelled together well enough to sit in first place in the Pacific Division at the time of the trade.

“I think one of the first things I noticed, the group’s not laid back, but everyone enjoys each other’s company,” Hall said. “There’s definitely a sense of: Guys know their role. Guys are comfortable in their own skin in the room and on the ice, and that’s a really good situation to come into as a player like myself.”

The trade added without subtracting. It also adds an element of confidence in a group that received a show of support from the front office, proving that the organization believes in the first-place bunch.

“It’s huge for me, for everybody,” head coach Rick Tocchet said. “I just know when John [Chayka] told me we acquired Taylor, the juice — not so much for the coaching staff — it just trickled down.

“The excitement that you acquire a guy like him is something that I think the fanbase is so excited about. I know John made a point: They deserve it. [Owner] Alex Meruelo comes in here, stabilizes everything. It just adds juice to everybody.”

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