The Nashville Predators are seemingly slipping out of the Taylor Hall trade rumor circles, and that might be a good thing.
The former first-overall pick from the 2010 NHL Entry Draft has reportedly been placed on the trade block with more than a handful of teams interested in acquiring him. The Predators have been rumored to have placed an offer to New Jersey Devils’ general manager Ray Shero, who has in essence expressed for teams to “make their best offer.”
Pursuing Hall would be a complete David Poile move. The Predators’ general manager has never shied away from big trades and is seemingly never completely satisfied with his current team, which is not a bad thing. After all, the Predators are still chasing their first Stanley Cup, and until you have that championship ring on your finger, can you ever be truly satisfied with your roster?
Poile tried multiple times to land Matt Duchene until, of course, he finally did during this past offseason. He traded for Peter Forsberg in 2006-07. He swapped Shea Weber for P.K. Subban and dealt up-and-coming defensive star Seth Jones to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Ryan Johansen, just to name a few deals. However, when it comes to Hall, it may be best if Poile sits this latest round out.
Not Just a Game-Changer, but a Team-Changer
The Predators would like Hall, it would be nice to have him, but they do not need him. It would be a logistical nightmare to land Hall via a trade.
Look, no one is debating whether Hall is an elite, game-changing talent. Sure, it could be argued whether or not he should have been selected before Tyler Seguin in his draft year. But, what cannot be argued is the fact that Hall can instantly upgrade any team.
Hall has had six seasons where he has recorded more than 50 points and twice he has had at least 80 points, which includes his 93-point season in 2017-18 when he won the Hart Memorial Trophy.
However, unlike previous seasons, the Predators are not starved of goal scoring. They have a goals-for per game average of 3.34, which is sixth-best in the NHL. This season Nashville has scored five goals or more eight times and they have four, six-goal games on their resume. Bringing in Hall obviously wouldn’t hurt those stats. In fact, he might be able to help the Predators climb back into the top-five for goal scoring. But, as mentioned, the offence isn’t exactly a weak spot this year and the cost of Hall may not warrant giving up the bounty of prospects and picks that Shero would undoubtedly require to let Hall walk.
It may also be premature to get involved in the high-stakes trade game. Links between Hall and the Predators seemed to be accompanied by the reasoning that he could be the missing piece that brings a Stanley Cup to the Music City. Hall could be another threat outside of the JOFA line (Johansen-Filip Forsberg-Viktor Arvidsson). However, all of these reasons seem to be awfully similar to the reasons why the Predators signed Duchene. So maybe before acting in haste, the Predators would be better to give Duchene a chance to be the player the Predators want and need.
2019-20 and Beyond for Hall in the Music City?
Hall will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, so the Predators need to ask themselves whether they want him as a rental player or not. Of course, if the Poile surges back into the trade conversation and eventually lands Hall, there is no guarantee that the all-star will be wearing gold next season.
Poile is not averse to acquiring “rental” players. Just last season Brian Boyle and Wayne Simmonds were brought in to help with the Stanley Cup push. However, both Boyle and Simmons were relatively inexpensive, parting with a second-round pick for Boyle, and Ryan Hartman and a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft for Simmonds.
But, unlike Boyle and Simmonds, Hall will not be scooped up as easily. That “best offer” TSN reported may need to contain at least a “first-round pick, an A+ prospect, and a young player.” Names that have arisen in NHL rumor websites are Calle Jarnkrok and Dante Fabbro. They certainly seem to fit the package model and could keep the Predators competitive with all the other suitors.
However, Jarnkrok and Fabbro paired with a first-round pick seems a little too expensive to make sense. The Predators’ blue line is starting to become depleted, which is not surprising considering how much the team’s defensive assets have been leaned on to acquire forwards in the past.
The Hockey News’ Matt Larkin expressed his opinion that the Predators no longer have the “unofficial title of best blue line in the NHL.” Maybe Larkin’s right. After all, in the past five years alone the Predators have departed with Jones, Weber, and Samuel Girard – who allowed the Predators to acquire Subban, so that’s kind of a wash – but then Subban was lost to sign Duchene. A dip in defensive production is inevitable when you remove three all-star defensemen and one who looks like he will be representing his team during the illustrious weekend sometime in the near future.
So, as much as the Predators would like to add to their list of show-stopping forwards, can they really afford to lose another piece from the backend, especially considering how much of a liability the third pairing has looked this season?
That Pesky Salary Cap
Next comes the headache of trying to remain compliant with the salary cap. The Predators have approximately $2.5 million left in cap space. Hall currently has an annual average value (AAV) of $6 million, which clearly means several, or one notable contract will have to be moved in order to accommodate his salary.
However, even factoring in what would leave the Predators’ payroll, should Jarnkrok and Fabbro head to The Garden State, the Predators would still be over the limit. Jarnkrok signed a team-friendly six-year, $12-million deal, resulting in a $2 million AAV, and Fabbro is still playing under his entry-level contract worth $925,000.
Therefore, a trade between the Predators and Devils would have to involve an additional player on Nashville’s end, or removing Fabbro and Jarnkrok for another significant piece. A name brought up with any trade talk the Predators are a part of is Kyle Turris.
But, trading Turris is a lot easier said than done. After the 2019-20 season, Turris still has four more, handcuffing seasons of $6 million left and he hasn’t exactly had the opportunity to show the league that he’s worth his contract and that last season was nothing more than a down year.
The Predators would more than likely have to retain some of Turris’ salary should they be able to move him. The other possibility is offloading all of his salary, which is plausible because TSN has reported that New Jersey is not averse to doing so. However, for the Devils to take on all of Turris’ salary, the Predators’ offer would certainly have to be a lot more desirable than all other bids.
For the sake of argument, let’s pretend that the Predators land Hall for the rest of this season. Poile makes an offer, it’s accepted and they make the cap work. But, the problems would not end there for the Predators because, as previously mentioned, Hall will require a new deal after the conclusion of the current season. Predicting where that deal will be is tricky, but what is not difficult is predicting that Hall will want a significant pay raise.
A New $10 Million Man?
It is speculated that Hall could be in line to demand around $10 million per season after his current deal expires. Unless Nashville moved one of their larger contracts in a trade for Hall or a separate negotiation, they would be hard-pressed to find the room for a cap hit that high.
That doesn’t mean it is impossible for Hall to call Tennessee his hockey home, it’s simply because of the timing. Not only does Hall need a new deal after this season, but Craig Smith and Mikael Granlund do too. If Poile and Predators let those two top-six forwards walk in free agency there would be $10 million exactly less counted against the Predators’ salary cap.
Granted it can not be argued that the Predators are receiving the best value out of Smith’s and Granlund’s contracts. But, if both players wanted to stay in Nashville, due to their production it’s a strong possibility they would have cheaper deals next season. Also, would it be wise to give up on Granlund? He is too talented for his recent play to continue, which means it would be a mistake to get rid of him this early.
Granlund had back-to-back seasons with the Minnesota Wild with 69 and 67 points, the season after he recorded 49 points in 63 games. These are all totals that would usually lead the Predators in scoring or at the very least be in the top-five.
If Shero is looking for youth and picks, the Predators might be better served to include Ryan Johansen and draft picks, rather than Fabbro and Jarnkrok. Nashville would become weaker at the center position, which is an area that Poile worked tirelessly to upgrade after the disappointment of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final defeat. However, it would free up the top-center spot for Duchene and open the door for Turris to play in the top-six on a more regular basis, which would give him an opportunity to succeed. Not to mention, it would mean the Predators would be able to subtract Johansen’s $8 million cap hit off the books.
This season hasn’t exactly gone according to plan for the Predators. They are 14-11-5, seven points behind the Winnipeg Jets for third place in the Central Division and four points out of a wild card spot. The Predators have the talent to be a Stanley Cup contender and their window is certainly wide open. Adding Hall would just be jamming another star into the lineup, which wouldn’t guarantee any more success, or the lack thereof, than they’re experiencing right now. It seems the headache would far outweigh the benefits of adding another all-star winger and therefore the Predators would be better off avoiding the Hall sweepstakes.