The Taylor Hall saga finally came to a close yesterday afternoon. In what was an inevitable move, the New Jersey Devils dealt the star winger to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for a 2020 first-round pick, a conditional 2021 third-round pick, and prospects Kevin Bahl, Nick Merkley, and Nate Schnarr.
The 2020 first-round pick is lottery-protected and would slide to 2021 if the Coyotes end up with a top-three selection. The conditions on the 2021 third-rounder could net the Devils a 2021 first-rounder if they fall into place.
The Devils were looking for quantity in trading Hall away, and they succeeded in that regard. But they didn’t come away with one of the Coyotes’ top prospects, such as Victor Soderstrom or Barrett Hayton. While that may sting initially, it will still take some time before we know if the Devils got a good enough return.
Devils Add Depth to Farm System
Kevin Bahl (Defenseman)
Bahl is arguably the centerpiece of this deal. He was the Coyotes third-ranked prospect, per Corey Pronman of The Athletic (From ‘2019 NHL farm system rankings: No. 17 Arizona Coyotes,’ The Athletic – 8/21/19). Bahl is a 6-foot-6, 230-pound defenseman who was a second-round choice (55th overall) of the Coyotes in 2018. He plays for the Ottawa 67’s and has 20 points in 28 games this season. He’ll also be a part of Team Canada for the World Junior Championships at the end of the month.
Bahl doesn’t have a ton of offensive upside, but he can move the puck effectively. Most players his size aren’t great skaters, but that’s not the case with him, as he moves pretty well around the ice. He probably won’t become a top-pair defenseman in the NHL, but he should be a no. 4 or 5 blueliner who excels at killing penalties.
Nick Merkley (Right-wing)
The Coyotes selected Merkley with the 30th overall pick at the 2015 Entry Draft. He played more than four seasons with the Kelowna Rockets (WHL) and averaged more than a point-per-game with them. He made his NHL debut in 2017-18 but has since played in the AHL, where he has 89 points in 108 games.
Merkley may not be the biggest forward, at 5-foot-10, 194 pounds, but he’s shown he can score in the AHL. The biggest concern is if that can translate at the next level, as he hasn’t played in an NHL game in two-plus seasons. He also has an injury history, which has limited how much he’s played in the minor leagues. But at 22 years old, and with plenty of AHL experience, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see Merkley with the Devils in the NHL sooner than later.
Nate Schnarr (Center)
Schnarr had a breakout campaign in 2018-19 with the Guelph Storm in the OHL. He finished the season with 102 points in 65 games, ranked ninth-best in the league. This season is his first taste of pro hockey, as he’s played with the Tucson Roadrunners (AHL), where he had nine points in 22 games before the trade.
Schnarr is 6-foot-3, 181 pounds, so he has the size to compete in the NHL. He has some offensive ability, but it now needs to translate to the next level. He’s only 20 years old and needs time to develop, so it’s unlikely he gets any NHL time this season. But his development will be worth watching, as he should be able to help a Binghamton Devils team that needs a boost.
Why Time is Needed to Determine Devils’ Return
It’s not easy to determine the value of a trade in the immediate aftermath, especially one that’s futures based. At first glance, it may not seem as if general manager Ray Shero got enough quality, but there is quantity. The Devils were looking for as many as four pieces in return and ended up with five between the picks and prospects.
Bahl is undoubtedly the best of the group and has the best chance to turn into an NHL regular. It appears Merkley has the next highest shot at becoming a contributor in the NHL. And with the Devils well out of the playoff picture, he’ll get a chance to prove he belongs at some point this season. Schnarr also has a shot at making the NHL, although I wouldn’t expect him to develop into more than a depth forward.
But it isn’t the prospects that will make or break this trade. Instead, it’ll be the extra draft picks. Shero has a history of using extra picks to acquire NHL talent, as he did with Nikita Gusev and Marcus Johansson. And no matter how the conditions end up, Shero will have them to pull off similar trades in the offseason.
The Devils have plenty of needs to fill, whether it’s on offense, defense, or in net. And they won’t be able to do it all through the draft. Their own selection — which should be a lottery pick — could net them an impact player who plays in 2020. And that’s where the Coyotes’ 2020 first-rounder could help bring the Devils another NHL-caliber player, even if it slides into 2021 due to lottery protection.
While getting a steady NHLer from the prospects would help, the final results of this trade won’t be known until we see what Shero does with the extra picks. If they acquire an impact player who’s young and under team control, they’ll be in good shape. It’s fair to be optimistic Shero can do so, given his trade history, and that will determine if the Devils truly got enough for Hall.
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Prospects info from Elite Prospects