Taylor Hall’s days are numbered in New Jersey. His time is coming to an end there. A trade may not be imminent yet, but he’ll surely be moved by the Feb. 24 deadline.
Ray Shero, the Devils’ general manager, is already fielding offers and gauging the market for the NHL’s most valuable player from two seasons ago (2018) and the first overall draft pick from 2010. Hall is one of the best left-wingers in the game, so he will garner interest from half the league — upwards of 15 teams, if not more — in varying degrees.
Hall is a pending free agent following this season and, by all accounts, he wants to play for a contender going forward. Some teams may look to acquire him simply as a rental, but other teams might be willing to pay a premium if they can negotiate an extension now — like Mark Stone did with Vegas in a sign-and-trade scenario — or if they have the cap space to lock him up long term in the summer.
Hall is making $6 million this season, but he’ll be wanting more than $8 million and perhaps over $10 million for the next five to seven years — and he will get paid on the open market, if not sooner.
That fit will be key from Hall’s perspective and New Jersey will want to maximize this return. There could very well be a bidding war brewing for his services — for the rest of this season and for the future — with Hall and his agent getting some say in where he goes despite not having any trade or movement clauses in his current contract.
The return is likely to feature a first-round draft pick and at least one top prospect — preferably a defenceman or goaltender, based on New Jersey’s needs. The Devils will presumably be willing to take back salary and expiring contracts to make the money work, providing it improves that package of futures.
As mentioned, as many as 15 teams could be in the mix — including Dallas, Arizona, Pittsburgh, Carolina, Nashville and San Jose, among others — but here are nine potential trading partners, listed in order of likelihood. Nine for the No. 9 on Hall’s jersey.
The Avs are trending up, projected to be a powerhouse for the next few years and Hall could put them over the top as a legitimate contender for this season.
Hall’s addition would ensure a second wave of offence behind one of the league’s elite lines — Nathan MacKinnon between Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog. Hall could flank Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky on the second line, while still getting top power-play time as the fourth forward with Cale Makar as the lone defenceman. Hall is a driver, so that spot in the lineup probably works best for him, but Jared Bednar could experiment with Hall on MacKinnon’s wing, bumping Landeskog down with Kadri.
New Jersey will undoubtedly ask for Bowen Byram, the fourth overall pick and top defence prospect from the 2019 draft. Colorado won’t part with Byram unless Hall is a long-term fit with a new contract in place — similar to Ottawa getting Erik Brannstrom as the prized asset for Stone. Colorado has lots of cap space for Hall, so that isn’t a concern and New Jersey wouldn’t necessarily have to take back any roster players.
Counting Byram, the Devils could covet as many as 15 assets from the Avs: 2020 first-round pick (not lottery protected) and 2021 first-round pick (conditional on Hall re-signing); fellow defence prospects Conor Timmins (next-best to Byram, 2017 second-rounder, 32nd overall), Drew Helleson (2019 second-rounder, 47th overall, Jack Hughes teammate last season), and Nicky Leivermann (2017 seventh-rounder, similar to Jeremy Davies, traded to Nashville in the P.K. Subban deal); goaltending prospect Justus Annunen (2018 third-rounder, 64th overall, Finland’s projected starter for World Juniors); forward prospects Alex Newhook (2019 first-rounder, 16th overall), Martin Kaut (2018 first-rounder, 16th overall), Shane Bowers (2017 first-rounder, 28th overall), and Sampo Ranta (2018 third-rounder, 78th overall, riser in redraft); roster forwards Tyson Jost (2016 first-rounder, 10th overall), J.T. Compher (2013 second-rounder, 35th overall), and Vladislav Kamenev (2014 second-rounder, 42nd overall), plus recently recalled defenceman Calle Rosen (25 years old, NHL-ready, AHL standout).
That is a lot to like for New Jersey. If Hall is willing to commit long term to Colorado, it’s hard to see a deal not getting done between the Devils and Avs — with or without Byram being involved. With Byram, it could be a 1-for-1 swap. Without Byram, the Devils could demand and command as many as four assets in return for Hall.
The Habs have a couple coveted assets in Jack Hughes’ former wingman Cole Caufield (2019 first-rounder, 15th overall) and budding goaltending prospect Cayden Primeau (2017 seventh-rounder), who seemed to get a showcase start on Thursday (3-2 loss to Colorado, with 32 saves). Ryan Poehling (2017 first-rounder, 25th overall) is probably third on the list of targets from Montreal, but the Canadiens have tons of other prospects, picks and young roster players to dangle for the Devils. So if not Colorado, Montreal makes a lot of sense as a suitor for Hall and for New Jersey.
Montreal is motivated to make the playoffs this season, not wanting to waste another prime year of Carey Price and Shea Weber. Marc Bergevin’s job as general manager could be at stake with another playoff miss, so he might be willing to go all-in on Hall. The Canadiens will be getting Jonathan Drouin back from injury in January and getting Hall in February, if not sooner, would provide a big boost to their offence and also to their playoff chances.
But at what cost? If not Caufield, would the Canadiens part with both Primeau and Poehling in the same package if that is the ask from New Jersey? Montreal is hosting the 2020 draft, so they may be reluctant to move that first-rounder — especially if they aren’t in a playoff position and the Devils don’t agree to lottery protection. Imagine the Devils selecting Alexis Lafreniere first overall in Montreal . . . with Montreal’s pick. Yikes. Therefore, the Canadiens would rather trade their 2021 first-rounder, but they do have two second-rounders in 2020 as potential sweetener to any package.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s name could enter the conversation, but the third overall pick from 2018 isn’t what New Jersey needs — already having Hughes, Nico Hischier and Pavel Zacha as first-rounders down the middle. Nick Suzuki (2017 first-rounder, 13th overall) won’t be offered up since he’s already playing a top-nine role as a rookie for Montreal and they would rather not subtract from the current roster in order to add Hall.
The exceptions might be Victor Mete (2016 fourth-rounder, 100th overall) and Cale Fleury (2017 third-rounder, 87th overall) on defence if the Devils prefer them over prospects Noah Juulsen (2015 first-rounder, 26th overall), Josh Brook (2017 second-rounder, 56th overall), Alexander Romanov (2018 second-rounder, 38th overall), Jordan Harris (2018 third-rounder, 71st overall), Jayden Struble (2019 second-rounder, 46th overall), and Mattias Norlinder (2019 third-rounder, 64th overall). All quality options at the position New Jersey needs most.
There are no shortage of intriguing prospects in Montreal’s system, including forwards Jesse Ylonen (2018 second-rounder, 35th overall), Jacob Olofsson (2018 second-rounder, 56th overall), Joni Ikonen (2017 second-rounder, 58th overall), and Rhett Pitlick (2019 fifth-rounder with high ceiling).
If Montreal wants to ditch a contract or two in this deal, New Jersey could take back any of Michael McCarron, Charles Hudon, Jake Evans, Lukas Vejdemo, Riley Barber, Mike Reilly, Michael McNiven and Charlie Lindgren, but they don’t carry much value — at least not in comparison to the aforementioned assets.
Regardless, it’s easy to see why many consider Montreal among the frontrunners for Hall.
The Sabres are more of a sleeper in the Hall sweepstakes, but they could make it happen.
Buffalo isn’t a hot spot for free agents, but Jeff Skinner stuck around in staying close to home in Ontario, with Hall also hailing from there. Hall was complimentary of Ralph Krueger’s coaching style before New Jersey’s game in Buffalo on Monday — a 7-1 win for the Sabres to further sell Hall on their potential. A pairing of Hall and Skinner as second-line wingers would make Buffalo that much better, especially if Jason Botterill can land that elusive centre in another trade.
Like Montreal, there is a fair bit of pressure for Buffalo to make the playoffs as far as Botterill’s job security goes. So he’ll likely be buying and Hall is the biggest fish. Buffalo has plenty of prospects and probably wouldn’t hesitate to pay with picks — be it their 2020 first-rounder (not lottery protected) and/or 2021 first-rounder (conditional on Hall re-signing).
There are also some family ties between Buffalo and New Jersey involving forward Tage Thompson (2016 first-rounder, 26th overall), with the Devils drafting his younger brother Tyce as a 2019 fourth-rounder (96th overall), and defenceman Casey Fitzgerald (2016 third-rounder, 86th overall), whose father Tom is the Devils’ assistant GM. Thompson and Fitzgerald wouldn’t be centrepieces in any package, but Shero could want them included.
If it’s defence that the Devils want, perhaps a hockey trade can be built around Hall for Rasmus Ristolainen, who has two more years remaining on his contract at a cap hit of $5.4 million. It is no secret that Ristolainen is available and has been shopped, but New Jersey has invested heavily in their analytics department and Ristolainen’s underlying numbers leave a lot to be desired. The Devils are fairly set on the right side at the NHL level — P.K. Subban, Sami Vatanen and Damon Severson, with Reilly Walsh on the way — so Ristolainen might not be on their radar. Even if he was, the Sabres would have to add another asset or two. It wouldn’t be a 1-for-1 swap.
Now, if Dylan Cozens (2019 first-rounder, seventh overall) and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (2017 second-rounder, 54th overall) are in play, those deals could be closer to 1-for-1 but would likely be dependent on a Hall extension as part of the trade. It would be much the same for Casey Mittelstadt (2017 first-rounder, eighth overall), but he’s another centre and therefore not at the top of New Jersey’s list. Cozens projects as more of a winger when he turns pro, even though he’s playing centre in junior, so he might be more enticing than Mittelstadt and his value might be higher in the present.
Failing that, assuming those three are off limits and that Hall isn’t willing to commit to Buffalo long term prior to playing there for the stretch run of this season, there is still potential for a deal with the Sabres. Buffalo has a handful of promising defence prospects, including NHL-ready Lawrence Pilut, who is turning 24 this month, plus Mattias Samuelsson (2018 second-rounder, 32nd overall), Ryan Johnson (2019 first-rounder, 31st overall), Oskari Laaksonen (2017 third-rounder, 89th overall), Jacob Bryson (2017 fourth-rounder, 99th overall), and Will Borgen (2015 fourth-rounder, 92nd overall) in addition to Fitzgerald.
Buffalo would want New Jersey to take back a defenceman or two with expiring contracts to offset Hall’s salary and stay cap compliant — be it Zach Bogosian ($5.14 million) or Marco Scandella ($4 million), plus Casey Nelson ($812,500) or John Gilmour ($700,000). Those four are all pending free agents, but if New Jersey prefers a veteran with term, there is Colin Miller, who has two more years at $3.875 million and has had good advanced stats throughout his career, or Jake McCabe, who is signed through next season at $2.75 million. Buffalo wouldn’t be opposed to moving any of those six blueliners as part of the package for Hall — seven counting Ristolainen.
If Luukkonen isn’t available — he’s viewed as Buffalo’s goaltender of the future — then 6-foot-6 Erik Portillo (2019 third-rounder, 67th overall) could interest New Jersey and has been making a positive impression in the USHL during his first season in North America.
Buffalo also has some lesser forward prospects, including NHL call-up Rasmus Asplund (2016 second-rounder, 33rd overall), Marcus Davidsson (2017 second-rounder, 37th overall), Arttu Ruotsalainen (Finnish free-agent signing), Matej Pekar (2018 fourth-rounder, 94th overall), and Aaron Huglen (2019 fourth-rounder, 102nd overall), among others.
Buffalo could build several acceptable packages for New Jersey, though not quite on the same level as Colorado and Montreal in terms of specifically coveted prospects.
St. Louis Blues
The defending champion Blues could be the next highest bidder and have a need for Hall with Vladimir Tarasenko uncertain to return from injury this season. Hall would probably be a rental for St. Louis, assuming Doug Armstrong is still prioritizing captain Alex Pietrangelo as a free agent.
Jordan Binnington has proven himself this season, making Jake Allen expendable as a potential starting goaltender for New Jersey next season. Binnington and Allen have been a terrific tandem this season, with Allen returning to form, but Binnington is going to be the guy there come playoffs again. Allen is signed through next season at $4.35 million. Ville Husso is also bouncing back in the AHL and still has decent upside, turning 25 in February and presumably being NHL ready for next season. He’ll be a restricted free agent this summer. Joel Hofer, who has grown to 6-foot-5, is a quality goaltending prospect in the WHL and could make Canada’s world junior team.
On defence, Scott Perunovich (2018 second-rounder, 45th overall) could be the next Adam Fox or Shayne Gostisbehere — that type of offensive catalyst from the back end. Jake Walman (2014 third-rounder, 82nd overall) is coming on strong in the AHL and could be NHL ready for next season; Mitch Reinke has been a revelation in the AHL as a college free-agent signing and could also step right in for New Jersey; Niko Mikkola, listed at 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, is looking very solid as a 2015 fifth-rounder and isn’t far away from contributing; and Tyler Tucker is also trending well in the OHL as a 2018 seventh-rounder.
The Blues’ best forward prospects are Jordan Kyrou (2016 second-rounder, 35th overall) and Klim Kostin (2017 first-rounder, 31st overall), who are both NHL ready and could make an immediate impact for the Devils. New Jersey might also be interested in Alexei Toropchenko (2017 fourth-rounder, 113th overall), Nikita Alexandrov (2019 second-rounder, 62nd overall), and Nolan Stevens (2016 fifth-rounder, son of Dallas assistant coach John Stevens) as part of the package.
The Devils would be remiss not to inquire about a handful of younger roster players in forwards Robert Thomas (2017 first-rounder, 20th overall), Ivan Barbashev (2014 second-rounder, 33rd overall), Oskar Sundqvist (2012 third-rounder, 81st overall), and late-blooming Sammy Blais (2014 sixth-rounder), as well as defenceman Vince Dunn (2015 second-rounder, 56th overall), who will be a restricted free agent due for a big raise following this season. But the Blues will value all of those players for another playoff run, so it is unlikely that they would be available. St. Louis would rather trade futures, including their first-round picks in 2020 and/or 2021.
If it’s goaltending that the Devils are determined to upgrade, then the Panthers factor into the top five suitors for Hall, with Spencer Knight (2019 first-rounder, 13th overall) as the key piece in return.
Knight is an elite goaltending prospect and also played with Jack Hughes last season. The Panthers are paying Sergei Bobrovsky a whopping $10 million for six more years, so Knight could be deemed expendable to land another top forward after missing out on Artemi Panarin in free agency. Hall would be a nice consolation prize a year later and could thrive under Joel Quenneville, alongside Aleksander Barkov or Vincent Trocheck. Florida could afford Hall but would have some decisions to make with both Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov also being pending unrestricted free agents following this season. Defenceman Mark Pysyk, at $2.73 million on an expiring contract but something of an analytics darling in years past, would likely be the salary dump to make room for Hall.
Knight is the obvious target from Florida, but the Panthers have 10 other prospects of significance in forwards Grigori Denisenko (2018 first-rounder, 15th overall), Owen Tippett (2017 first-rounder, 10th overall), Henrik Borgstrom (2016 first-rounder, 23rd overall), Aleksi Heponiemi (2017 second-rounder, 40th overall), Serron Noel (2018 second-rounder, 34th overall), Logan Hutsko (2018 third-rounder, 89th overall) and Owen Lindmark (2019 fifth-rounder exceeding expectations in college); plus defencemen Max Gildon (2017 third-rounder, 66th overall), Vladislav Kolyachonok (2019 second-rounder, 52nd overall) and NHL-ready Riley Stillman (2016 fourth-rounder). And first-round picks are always welcome, with both 2020 and 2021 potentially being available from Florida.
The Panthers could put together some tempting packages, but the Devils would likely demand Knight be involved — and rightfully so.
New York Islanders
The Islanders are another team that missed out on Panarin and Lou Lamoriello would presumably like to make a splash ahead of the trade deadline to reward Barry Trotz for once again getting the most out of a mediocre roster.
In going to the Islanders, Hall would be reunited with close friend and former Edmonton linemate Jordan Eberle. Hall would also be more of a go-to guy with the Islanders than with most of the other teams on this list. He would likely get to play with Matt Barzal and Eberle on the top line, bumping Anders Lee and Anthony Beauvillier down the depth chart on left wing to make for a more balanced lineup. Hall’s addition could provide the Islanders with three legitimate scoring lines.
The Devils would almost certainly want one of the Islanders’ top three prospects in scoring forward Oliver Wahlstrom (2018 first-rounder, 11th overall), right-handed defenceman Noah Dobson (2018 first-rounder, 12th overall), or standout Russian goaltender Ilya Sorokin (2014 third-rounder, 78th overall). Wahlstrom was Hughes’ wingman two seasons ago — the year before Caufield — so he could be the initial ask, but Dobson and Sorokin would also fill needs. A future defence pairing of Dobson and fellow 2018 first-rounder Ty Smith (17th overall) would be the envy of many and could be Canada’s top pairing at this year’s World Juniors, while Sorokin is sure looking like a future starter with star potential.
The Islanders probably have to put one of those three on the table to have a hope of landing Hall — and they need Hall as badly as anybody. But if Hall isn’t committing beyond this season — at least not prior to the trade — that is a risky proposition. He may not consider re-signing without some playoff success — winning at least one round, which he hasn’t experienced in his career to date — but it would be a short move distance-wise and he’s already familiar with the area, so maybe Hall would take a liking to the Islanders.
The Devils would likely be willing to take back pending free agent Matt Martin ($2.5 million) and buyout candidate Thomas Hickey (two more years at $1.425 and $1.375) as salary dumps to seal the deal for one of those marquee prospects. Heck, they might even take Andrew Ladd, who still has three more years left at $4.425 million next season, then $4.375 and finally $5.125. Ladd does have a no-trade clause through this season and could exercise it to block that obvious buyout, but the same fate looms with the Islanders.
New Jersey may also accept reclamation projects Michael Dal Colle (2014 first-rounder, fifth overall) and Josh Ho-Sang (2014 first-rounder, 28th overall), but they don’t have any meaningful value in the present and would be considered throw-ins.
Could the Islanders put a package together for Hall without those top three prospects? Sure, but the chances of that package being the best offer are probably slim. That said, the other prospects of note include defenders Bode Wilde (2018 second-rounder, 41st overall), Samuel Bolduc (2019 second-rounder, 57th overall), Robin Salo (2017 second-rounder, 46th overall), NHL-ready Sebastian Aho (2017 fifth-rounder), Parker Wotherspoon (2015 fourth-rounder), David Quenneville (2016 seventh-rounder), and injured Mitch Vande Sompel (2015 third-rounder, 82nd overall); goalies Linus Soderstrom (2014 fourth-rounder, 95th overall) and Jakub Skarek (2018 third-rounder, 72nd overall); and forwards Simon Holmstrom (2019 first-rounder, 23rd overall), Kieffer Bellows (2016 first-rounder, 19th overall), Ruslan Iskhakov (2018 second-rounder, 43rd overall), Anatoly Golyshev (2016 fourth-rounder, 95th overall), and Otto Koivula (2016 fourth-rounder, 120th overall).
The Islanders also have all their draft picks for the next three years, including the coveted 2020 and 2021 first-rounders. They should be buyers, but the price for Hall might be deemed too steep.
Don Sweeney and the Bruins love their rental forwards despite mixed results over the last five years: Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson in 2019, Rick Nash in 2018, Drew Stafford in 2017, Lee Stempniak in 2016, and Brett Connolly in 2015. Hall would instantly become the best of that bunch, making Boston that much deeper and more dangerous with Brad Marchand and Jake DeBrusk already on left wing.
Problem is, the Bruins’ prospects aren’t nearly as sexy as those other teams. That doesn’t mean they aren’t promising in their own right, but they aren’t as highly regarded around the league by comparison. So that puts Boston at a disadvantage, requiring any package to include the 2020 first-round pick and perhaps the 2021 first-rounder too.
Beyond that, Boston would be offering up the likes of defencemen Urho Vaakanainen (2017 first-rounder, 18th overall), Jeremy Lauzon (2015 second-rounder, 52nd overall), Jakub Zboril (2015 first-rounder, 13th overall), and Axel Andersson (2018 second-rounder, 57th overall); forwards John Beecher (2019 first-rounder, 30th overall), Jack Studnicka (2017 second-rounder, 53rd overall), Oskar Steen (2016 sixth-rounder), and Jakub Lauko (2018 third-rounder, 77th overall); and goaltenders Daniel Vladar (2015 third-rounder, 75th overall) and Jeremy Swayman (2017 fourth-rounder, 111th overall). Nothing special there, but still enough quality to get New Jersey’s attention.
From that list, Vaakanainen has been an AHL standout lately, Beecher is another former teammate of Jack Hughes, Studnicka is a strong two-way centre though that isn’t a need for New Jersey, Steen could remind the Devils’ brass of Jesper Bratt (another sixth-rounder from Sweden), Lauko seems to have a high ceiling, and Vladar is close to NHL ready but may not be better than what the Devils already have in Mackenzie Blackwood.
It is tough to see Boston emerging as the winning bidder, but it’s easy to envision the Bruins making a push for Hall based on their history at the deadline. The deal becomes more difficult if the Devils have to take back buyout candidate David Backes ($6 million through next season), and New Jersey wouldn’t have much interest in fellow forwards Anders Bjork (2014 fifth-rounder, $925,000 pending RFA), Karson Kuhlman (college free-agent signing, $750,000 pending RFA), Zach Senyshyn (2015 first-rounder, 15th overall), Trent Frederic (2016 first-rounder, 29th overall), Ryan Fitzgerald (2013 fourth-rounder, Tom’s other son), and Pavel Shen (2018 seventh-rounder), nor the rights to Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (2015 second-rounder, 45th overall) and Alexander Khokhlachev (2011 second-rounder, 40th overall).
This is technically Hall’s hometown team — he was born and raised in Calgary before his family moved to Ontario when he was 13 — and he truly enjoyed his time in Alberta while starring for Edmonton over six losing seasons.
Could there be a Battle of Alberta to bring Hall back to that province? Perhaps, with speculation and anticipation that both the Flames and Oilers will pursue him, but they seem like long-shots and shouldn’t be considered favourites.
Calgary could entertain a hockey trade for defenceman T.J. Brodie ($4.65 million pending UFA), adding in a future asset or two if need be, but that would fill one hole while creating another. Calgary would need to send salary back to New Jersey, with fellow defender Travis Hamonic ($3.857 million pending UFA) and forwards Michael Frolik ($4.3 million pending UFA) and Mark Jankowski ($1.675 million pending RFA) being the likeliest candidates. Andrew Mangiapane ($715,000 pending RFA) could become a throw-in, stemming from his difficult negotiation this past offseason. With that much money coming off the books from expiring contracts — more than $12 million between Brodie, Hamonic and Frolik — Calgary could afford Hall going forward, potentially making him more than a rental.
As for who the Devils would want from the Flames, Juuso Valimaki (2017 first-rounder, 16th overall) and Rasmus Andersson (2015 second-rounder, 53rd overall) would be topping that list as top-four defencemen, but Valimaki’s recovery from knee surgery is concerning and Calgary remains very high on Andersson as a keeper through the Seattle expansion draft. The Flames would counter with Oliver Kylington (2015 second-rounder, 60th overall) as their defenceman of choice and wouldn’t hesitate to include their 2020 first-rounder (not lottery protected) and perhaps their 2021 first-rounder (conditional on Hall re-signing).
Besides Valimaki, who would have been an NHL regular this season had he been healthy, the Flames don’t have much in the way of defence prospects. And their goaltending prospects aren’t as highly touted as they were in their draft years — particularly Jon Gillies (2012 third-rounder, 75th overall) and Tyler Parsons (2016 second-rounder, 54th overall), neither of whom have a ton of value in the present. Dustin Wolf (2019 seventh-rounder) is a good bet to outperform his draft position, but he is a few years away and New Jersey needs a goalie now — or sooner than later.
Calgary is lacking in defence prospects but has an abundance of forward prospects to consider, including plenty of intriguing talents taken outside the top three rounds: Dmitry Zavgorodny (2018 seventh-rounder, big-time riser in redraft), Mathias Emilio Pettersen (2018 sixth-rounder), Adam Ruzicka (2017 fourth-rounder, 109th overall), Martin Pospisil (2018 fourth-rounder, 105th overall), Demetrios Koumontzis (2018 fourth-rounder, 108th overall), Josh Nodler (2019 fifth-rounder), Lukas Feuk (2019 fourth-rounder, 116th overall), Eetu Tuulola (2016 sixth-rounder), and Milos Roman (2018 fourth-rounder, 122nd overall). New Jersey could take a couple of them off Calgary’s hands if the Devils so desired, with Ilya Nikolayev (2019 third-rounder, 88th overall) as another option.
The Devils might also inquire about forwards Sam Bennett (2014 first-rounder, fourth overall), Dillon Dube (2016 second-rounder, 56th overall), and Jakob Pelletier (2019 first-rounder, 26th overall) during the Hall discussions. Bennett could be available, but Dube is a local boy for Calgary and the Flames won’t want to part with Pelletier either.
Last but not least, there are rumblings of a potential reunion between Hall and the Oilers. The insiders are indicating Hall would welcome a return to Edmonton and that there is mutual interest.
Hall remains good friends with Connor McDavid — they train together in the offseasons in Toronto — among other former teammates that still call the Alberta capital home, such as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Darnell Nurse. Remember, Hall made it clear in the media that he didn’t want to leave Edmonton — that he wanted to stay and be part of the solution there — and although he was upset about the trade to New Jersey at the time, there are no lingering hard feelings toward the Oilers’ organization now that Peter Chiarelli is no longer in charge. So don’t rule out this possibility.
The Oilers can afford Hall as a rental, no problem — that can be accomplished by shipping Sam Gagner ($3.15 million) and Brandon Manning ($2.25 million) to New Jersey as salary dumps on expiring contracts — but extending Hall would be difficult to do with Nurse and Nugent-Hopkins also needing new contracts in the near future and even Ethan Bear playing his way into a decent payday for next season.
If Edmonton wants to retain those three, among others like Adam Larsson, there wouldn’t be enough money left for Hall unless the cap ceiling rises substantially or he’s willing to take a “hometown” discount with an average annual value closer to Leon Draisaitl’s $8.5 million than Connor McDavid’s $12.5 million. Realistically, Hall’s salary would have to come in under $10 million to re-sign in Edmonton — and that might be unrealistic based on the free-agent market.
In a rental scenario, the Oilers could include their 2020 first-round pick with conditions tied to their playoff results. That has become a popular trend with rentals, to trade a second-round pick that becomes a first-rounder by winning one or more rounds. Edmonton could also tentatively include their 2021 first-round pick on the condition of re-signing Hall. Those two picks probably have to be in play for New Jersey to consider sending Hall back to Edmonton.
Beyond that, Ken Holland won’t sell the farm for Hall — certainly not as a rental. If the likelihood of re-signing Hall is slim to none, the Devils won’t be getting blue-chip defence prospects Evan Bouchard (2018 first-rounder, 10th overall) and Philip Broberg (2019 first-rounder, eighth overall). Neither of them will be made available by Edmonton.
The Oilers do have other defence options, including Caleb Jones (2015 fourth-rounder, 117th overall) and William Lagesson (2014 fourth-rounder, 91st overall), who are essentially NHL ready and will require waivers next season. One or both of them could be part of the package and step right into New Jersey’s lineup. As could Matt Benning ($1.9 million, pending RFA) from the NHL roster if New Jersey preferred a blueliner with more experience and nice underlying numbers.
Edmonton has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to defence prospects right now, with Dmitri Samorukov (2017 third-rounder, 84th overall), Filip Berglund (2016 third-rounder, 91st overall), Markus Niemelainen (2016 third-rounder, 63rd overall), Phil Kemp (2017 seventh-rounder), and Mike Kesselring (2018 sixth-rounder) also being of potential interest. Samorukov is trending to be the best of that bunch.
As for goaltending prospects, Ilya Konovalov (2019 third-rounder, 85th overall) and Olivier Rodrigue (2018 second-rounder, 62nd overall) have the highest upside, but Shane Starrett (college free agent turned AHL all-star), Stuart Skinner (2017 third-rounder, 78th overall), and Dylan Wells (2016 fifth-rounder, 123rd overall) already have AHL experience. Starrett is close to NHL ready — he will be 26 years old next season — but Konovalov may not be too far off either. He’ll be 22 for next season with a couple KHL campaigns on his resume. There is no consensus on Edmonton’s goalie of the future, so New Jersey could have their pick of that litter, though none of them are surefire starters — let alone stars in the making.
Edmonton will be pickier when it comes to parting with forward prospects because the Oilers need to develop some of their scoring wingers to be productive on cheap entry-level contracts. That said, Jesse Puljujarvi (2016 first-rounder, fourth overall) is obviously still available as a quality asset wanting out of Edmonton. New Jersey could be a decent landing place for Puljujarvi, depending on the Devils’ new head coach.
Kailer Yamamoto (2017 first-rounder, 22nd overall), Tyler Benson (2016 second-rounder, 32nd overall), Raphael Lavoie (2019 second-rounder, 38th overall), and Kirill Maksimov (2017 fifth-rounder) are the four wingers that Edmonton will be reluctant to move. But if New Jersey insisted on one of them being involved as a dealbreaker, the Oilers may not say no. Puljujarvi would make more sense from both sides, one would think.
The other forward prospects of potential interest are Ryan McLeod (2018 second-rounder, 40th overall, older brother Michael was a Devils’ first-rounder in 2016), Cooper Marody (2015 sixth-rounder turned AHL standout), Anton Slepyshev (2013 third-rounder, 88th overall), and Bogdan Yakimov (2013 third-rounder, 83rd overall). Edmonton still owns the rights to those latter two Russians who could resurface from the KHL in the coming years.
Daryl Katz no doubt wants to win now — especially with the Oilers leading the Pacific Division to date — but he has given Holland full autonomy to do what’s best for Edmonton in the present and the future. Overpaying for Hall as a rental probably isn’t best, but if the cost was Puljujarvi, Jones and the conditional 2020 pick — dependent on Edmonton’s playoff success or lack thereof, thus not necessarily a first-rounder — that would likely be worth it.
What do you think — which of these nine teams are most likely to land Hall? Or do you foresee a different dark horse stepping up to acquire him? Maybe he stays in New Jersey after all? Feel free to weigh in by leaving a comment below.
Larry Fisher is a senior writer and head scout for The Hockey Writers, having been an at-large contributor for THW since August 2014. Fisher covers both the NHL and the WHL, specializing in prospects and NHL draft content, including his annual mock drafts that date back to 2012. Fisher has also been a beat writer for the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets since 2008, formerly working as a sports reporter/editor for The Daily Courier in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada from 2008-2019. Follow him on Twitter: @LarryFisher_KDC.