What seemed like an interminable wait over three days for all parties involved once Taylor Hall got pulled from the lineup before the Devils’ game in Colorado on Friday is finally now over, and the deal is done. This afternoon, the Devils consummated a trade of their former MVP to Arizona in a blockbuster five-player and two pick deal.
Everyone knows what we gave up, at least with Hall I already said my piece on him in prior blogs – good luck in Arizona and happy trails. It was obviously best for him and for the team to get this done before the holiday roster freeze which was looming in a couple of days. Given Arizona’s cap situation, the Devils retained 50% of his contract in the trade. Also going to Arizona is AHL player Blake Speers. Believe it or not back in 2016 the small winger was somewhat highly thought of, making the Opening Night roster straight out of the OHL at 19 years old – but lasted just three forgettable games, and after being sent back to the OHL he’s toiled with no success in the AHL over the last three years, putting up just 28 points in 115 games. So no great loss there.
We know what this season has become, and what the trade of Hall represents long-term but today’s about moving forward and what we got back. First, the pick(s), a first-rounder was an absolute requirement IMO in a Hall trade and the Devils got that. Most likely it’ll be a 2020 first-rounder in the 12-25 range unless Arizona collapses and wins a draft lottery, then the lotto-protected pick defers to 2021. As I’m not a big believer in Arizona, the pick from them might wind up being a better pick than other teams such as Colorado who were also in on the Hall negotiations, but that’s nitpicking. Also the Devils got back a conditional third-rounder, which could turn into a second-rounder if Arizona wins a playoff round (or Hall re-signs there), or even another first-rounder if both those things occur.
Now the players…anyone who thought we were going to get some team’s crown jewel for a rental player when other teams couldn’t even negotiate an extension with Hall were fooling themselves. Arizona’s package was almost certainly the best they were going to get back though, headed by 2018 2nd-round defenseman Kevin Bahl, who’s a 19-year old with serious size (6’7, 240 pounds), plus some skating ability and he’s put up 20 points in 28 OHL games. Bahl will be in action for team Canada during the upcoming World Junior Championships. According to HNIC’s Elliotte Friedman on Saturday, the two teams were haggling over Bahl’s inclusion in the deal, if that’s the case guess GM Ray Shero got his way.
Merkley – a winger, was a 2015 first-rounder who has some scoring potential (in 2017-18 he put up 18 goals and 39 points in 38 AHL games) but his production’s fallen off a little the last couple years due to injuries. Schnarr – a righty shooting center, was a 3rd round pick in 2017. Probably organizational depth with one goal and nine points in 22 AHL games, but it is his first action there after a 102-point season in the OHL last year. For what it’s worth, the Athletic’s Corey Pronman rated Bahl, Merkley and Schnarr the Coyotes’ 3rd, 5th and 7th best prospects over the summer although their system overall ranked just 17th among 31 teams.
Anyone expecting a sure thing back for a rental Hall was kidding themselves. As regrettable as this day is on some level I’m just glad it’s over. And if you’re a believer in scouting director Paul Castron, then at least allow yourself to dream about any of these kids potentially making an impact at the NHL level someday.