With one more year remaining on his current contract, Taylor Hall might be an expensive, but worthwhile trade target for the Nashville Predators.
The NHL Draft gets underway at 8 pm ET on Friday, June 21, 2019. The first pick goes to the New Jersey Devils, and all indications point to US wonder kid, Jack Hughes being that selection. The draft is also when a number of trade deals happen in the hockey calendar and the Devils will no doubt have their share of offers come in for 2018 NHL MVP left-winger, Taylor Hall. That’s because Hall hasn’t given an indication that he’s in a hurry to re-sign with New Jersey, according to The Fourth Period. The Nashville Predators could be in a position to pounce on the UFA-to-be.
Now from the outset, I know the unlikelihood of such a major trade happening. NHL MVPs aren’t easily moved and, with a top talent like Hughes joining Hall and fellow top-pick Nico Hischer in New Jersey this season, the Devils have all year to convince Hall to re-sign, should they choose to take it. The price tag would, no doubt, be absolutely massive. However, we’re fans, so let’s get crazy. It’s what we do. If this Nashville team is as close to a Stanley Cup as we’d like to believe, then surely the thought experiment is at least one worth having.
Consider, first, the players that have been bandied about as possible out-going trade assets. Players like Kyle Turris and P.K. Subban have been the most talked-about possibilities. Would Taylor Hall, with his $6 million AAV for 2019-20 be worth packaging one (or both?) of those guys with a draft pick or picks?
Turris, while disappointing during his time in Nashville, has shown glimpses of the player he could be if he remains healthy. His 42 points with Nashville in 2017-18, after coming over via trade, might be more indicative of what the Preds can expect from him than his putrid 2018-19 season. His 9% shooting percentage was almost two full percentage points lower than his career 10.8%, for example. Would it be reasonable to expect a bounce-back year in 2019-20?
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Subban is one of the best defensemen in the NHL and while he performance last season was below expectations, it seems reasonable to expect a bounce-back year from the Toronto native, as well. Injuries and an overall feeling of “bleh” coming from the 2018-19 Preds had a lot to do with the dip in performances all over the Nashville roster.
Both players command large salaries and large cap-hits, however. Subban sports a $9 million AAV through 2022, while Turris weighs in with a $6 million AAV through 2024. Even with a bounce-back, are the expected performances of Turris (29) and Subban (30) enough to make the Predators feel better off paying their salaries than that of Taylor Hall?
Taylor Hall is in the prime of his career, at 27 years old, and though he played just 33 games in 2018-19 due to a knee injury, he has averaged 0.91 points per game over his 562 game career. As for what he’d do for the Preds’ biggest problem last season, the power play, Hall has averaged about 21 points per season with the man-advantage since being traded to New Jersey. Keep in mind that number includes just 1 goal and 11 assists in his injury shortened 2018-19 season. He also doesn’t have any no-trade protection, so that’s not an issue for acquiring him, either.
Imagine a Nashville Predators roster with Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson, Craig Smith, and Taylor Hall in the top 6. Consider, also, that the trade package for Hall could still theoretically give enough enough cap space to still sign Matt Duchene. That’s a formidable six to pair with a still excellent group of defensemen, regardless of whether Subban or another big name D-man is involved in the deal.
It’s not a no-brainer, for sure. There is plenty of risk involved in a deal for Taylor Hall, however. If the Nashville Predators could pull off a move before the beginning of the new season, they’re giving up a load of assets for a player that may not want to sign in Nashville long term and is coming off a knee injury that’s kept him out since December, requiring surgery.
Would trading the big contracts of Subban and/or Turris, knowing that Hall would command a massive salary for any contract extension really be an upgrade? Would the Preds need to include Eeli Tolvanen to convince New Jersey to take on a big contract of a Subban or Turris? Does that still make sense for the Preds? Is one year of Taylor Hall in a Predators sweater worth the boatload of assets it would likely cost?
Ultimately, the Devils hold the bulk of the leverage in such a trade. Teams could save some value by waiting until the trade deadline to move for Hall, if he hasn’t signed an extension by that point. That’s not the kind of trade you make at the deadline, though. Acquiring Hall is going to cost a number of current and future assets. If you’re a contender trying to get to that next level, as the Predators are, you don’t want to be shaking the roster up so drastically in the middle of the season. The off-season is the time to do it, if you’re going to do it at all.
David Poile and company have talked about making sure they get the most out of this roster while they have so many top players under friendly contracts. The window for the Predators is still wide open, maybe a blockbuster move to nab a recent MVP forward is the step they need to bust through and attain that goal of a Stanley Cup parade down Broadway.