The New York Islanders’ topic de jour is that they need scoring help, which is true and not much of a surprise to anyone who has followed the team over the last 20 years. They’ve been searching for a top winger for years, only to leave John Tavares on an island where he made top wingers out of Matt Moulson, Kyle Okposo, and Brad Boyes.
Even with former 40-goal scorer and captain Anders Lee re-signed to a seven-year deal prior to this season, the Islanders are still without a true top winger. With reports circulating about Taylor Hall’s availability ahead of the trade deadline, many teams, which presumably includes the Islanders, are rightfully taking a hard look at the former MVP.
Hall would be electric on Mathew Barzal’s wing. His speed, grit, and ability to finish perfectly balances Barzal’s playmaking. It would round out the top six to the best it’s been in a long time and, consequently, make the third line better by pushing someone down the lineup. That would allow head coach Barry Trotz to roll four lines with confidence. The power play would also get a boost, which is important for the playoffs. The thing is, the Islanders should not trade for Hall.
Don’t Mortage the Future
The New Jersey Devils are in a tough spot right now. They have a mix of bright young talent and veterans who are beginning to fade; not to mention a goalie problem and the recent firing of coach John Hynes. In regard to the former, the Devils will want a huge return for Hall, with some reports calling for as many as four pieces. That’s a lot of assets for one team to give up for a player who may not sign an extension or, as Rachel Doerrie tweeted, “will be past his prime for the majority of the contract.”
The Islanders don’t have a ton of young talent they can trade for Hall without mortgaging their future. They would likely have to give up their 2020 first-round pick in a deep draft, Oliver Wahlstrom, Bode Wilde, or Noah Dobson, and a conditional draft pick in 2021 if Hall signs a new contract. And that might not be it.
As much as Islanders fans want to see their team win as soon as possible, is it worth its future? Hall would make them really good now, but they would still need to get past the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins in the playoffs, battle-tested teams with a lot of experience and skill. There’s also no guarantee he would re-sign, making for a very expensive playoff run.
In addition to the cost of acquiring Hall, if he decides he wants to sign with the Islanders, he is going to want around $10 million per season for seven or eight years. For two, maybe even three or four seasons, Hall would be great for the Islanders – outside of a major injury like Cory Schneider. It’s after those first few years that it becomes worrisome, as his play may deteriorate after he turns 30 but his contract would tie up cap space and he would be nearly impossible to move.
General manager Lou Lamoriello has to think long term. Even with the salary cap going up, there are a number of players, like Barzal, who need new contracts that will not come cheap. Additionally, there are pending unrestricted free agents like Thomas Greiss and Derick Brassard who will need to be re-signed or their positions filled by a new player. Either way, the Islanders’ cap situation is in good shape right now and adding Hall to the mix long term would jeopardize their ability to make necessary moves to create the best team they can moving forward.
There are a lot of reasons for and against trading for Hall, but the cons outweigh the pros and that’s not to say we shouldn’t be excited if that trade takes place. Despite the hurdles in the playoffs, the Islanders would immediately be added to the conversation of the best Eastern Conference teams. Luckily, there are other possible landing spots for Hall with the assets the Devils are looking for. Let’s just hope it’s not in the Eastern Conference.
Jon Zella is a 30-year-old Long Island native currently living in Syracuse, NY. Outside of hockey, he enjoys motorcycles, beer, coffee, and his dog Olive.