Is Taylor Hall a wise play for the St. Louis Blues? First, let’s kick it back nearly a year.
Last season near the trade deadline, St. Louis General Manager Doug Armstrong made the hard choice to stand pat and take his chances with the team that was currently in the midst of a wild hot streak.
Certain fans blasted him for it. Others appreciated the dedication to the roster. I think it worked out in the Blues’ favor.
What happens in 2019-20?
The Blues currently sit atop the Western Conference, five comfortable points ahead of Edmonton, which is weird in itself. They have a cushion against a bad two week stretch that’s surely going to happen, racking up enough points to shoulder a slight drop to Earth. The Blues are thriving off a wicked power play and goaltending tandem, scoring enough to get by and winning a lot of games late or in overtime.
While there’s an expectation for them to regress a little, do they need to stretch for a guy like Hall?
According to Pierre LeBrun, the New Jersey Devils will entertain offers for the left winger, who is approaching free agency after the season ends. While this makes the request from Jersey less, the price will go right back up if an extension is ensured. Example: The Blues had the extension with Justin Faulk pretty much in place before the trade was finalized.
Here’s the thing. The Blues can’t afford to re-sign Alex Pietrangelo and ink Hall to a long term deal. Please don’t say they can easily trade Jake Allen (not even enough money) or Alex Steen (harder to trade, NTC included), because you’re better than that. The salary cap won’t allow Armstrong to do it, unless he does some wild juggling. I don’t see Hall taking less money or years at this point, especially coming off a recent Hart Trophy win where he netted 39 goals. Hall’s 2018-19 season was hampered by injury, but he does have 22 points in 27 games this season, putting him on pace for an easy 60 point total.
Oh, Hall is pretty damn good. Do we have to go over the details? He has mad hatter-type possession skills, has collected 20 or more goals in six seasons, and added 30 or more assists in five different seasons. The former first round draft pick won the Calder Trophy, has played in four All Star games, and as previously mentioned, taken home the Hart Trophy in his age 26 season.
The people saying he is overrated...I honestly don’t know what it would take to get him, but you have to kick the tires at least. Definitely don’t need to make sudden changes at the moment but I’m curious if we circle back come Jan/Feb pic.twitter.com/Dh2pm1eR8g— 11 More Wins (@WashedUpTendy) December 4, 2019
He just turned 28 years old, so there’s still juice left in those legs. Hall has played in at least 61 games in six of his nine seasons, which doesn’t put him at horse or complete liability status.
Hall is polishing off a seven year/42 million dollar contract, and will be looking for a higher average annual value than $6 million, which is what the Blues paid Steen to try and collect 50 points a few years ago. Hall will be looking at $9-10 million per season and if his agent isn’t smoking PCP, around 6-8 seasons. The latter would see him into his 36th year here on this rock, which will be about right if he finishes off the season healthy and robust with the puck.
Now, what do the Blues do? Armstrong could pull the trigger on a win-now season. They are already halfway into the mode without a Pietrangelo extension and guys like Jay Bouwmeester and Steen either nearing the end or reaching for the actual door to retirement. According to The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford, a prospect like Klim Kostin and a draft pick may get the ball rolling on a rental-type deal with Hall.
Is that worth it? Let me take a swig of bourbon and ruminate on this theory. Giving up Kostin with Jordan Kyrou still waiting in the wings along with the emergence of a guy like Sammy Blais and Nathan Walker isn’t overly hard to stomach-and I really like Kostin. A draft pick will hurt, but the Blues have some depth in the minors and may be able to stomach a loss there.
After Perron on left wing, there isn’t much certainty. Blais isn’t coming back until next month at the earliest and Steen is pending a return date. The Blues’ goals-goals allowed differential is a measly 18, and that’s with the fourth best GAA rate in the league. In a nutshell, great goaltending and stellar defense is fueling this fast start-but betting on that lasting a full 82 is hazardous. The Blues will need goal manufacturing and while Hall is more of an assist man in his career, he does produce scoring plays when he touches the ice.
Keep in mind that Vladimir Tarasenko isn’t being evaluated until the end of March, and who knows what he will promise come April. There’s no true scoring punch coming with the likes of Hall outside of #91. On the same hand, if the Blues do acquire Hall and his prorated salary, Tarasenko won’t be able to come back until the playoffs.
Devil’s Advocate: The Blues could test the rest of the trade market and see if there is a better fit. Someone with some years on his deal who won’t cost as much as Hall, but could offer support. Perhaps a steely veteran not named old man Brouwer. The Devils aren’t letting Hall go before the New Year anyway, so this is far off talk.
The real question is, if the Blues do little to nothing, can they truly make it back to the Stanley Cup Final-or do they need a Hall-type push? I don’t think they can. Even with Blais and Oskar Sundqvist returning at some point and as much as they are embracing the next man up mantra, this team will need goals. Unless Tarasenko can come right back and snap into sniper mode, they will be goal-deprived.
And let me ask you ... where are they getting them? If the Devils ask for too much more than a Kostin type/draft pick, then maybe you back off. According to Jason Gregor, there could be three players required to get a half season of Hall.
Evander Kane was traded for a 2nd round, a 4th round and Daniel O’Regan. The 2nd became a 1st round pick when Kane signed with SJ.— Jason Gregor (@JasonGregor) November 30, 2019
Taylor Hall is a more dynamic player so cost will likely be higher.
A 1st for sure, a higher end prospect and another pick to start. #NHL
All things considered, the only way a Hall trade happens is by the rental route, and I am in on that. You don’t need to worry about Tarasenko’s money until the playoffs, and just imagine what Hall could do with the Blues roster. He’s been putting up solid stats on a remote Devils island. Pair him with Robert Thomas or Ryan O’Reilly and see where the fun really happens.
I make the deal as long as New Jersey doesn’t ask for more than 2-3 players and no more than one good prospect. Call me crazy, but I think the Blues are in a unique position where they could hoist Lord Stanley in June, and if getting Hall puts them over the top and fixes their goal scoring streaky issues, you have to take a long look.
They are getting decimated by injuries, and while they currently rank 12th in the NHL in goals-per-game, I wouldn’t expect that number to stay where it is.
As Rutherford noted, a Hall rental deal carries a lot of intrigue but little logic. For this Blues team that can struggle to score goals on a regular basis just about every season, the logic isn’t that hard to grasp.
There’s some bold flavor to this type of deal, but seeing the Faulk trade and the Schenn extension, I can see Armstrong pulling a huge deal like this to push St. Louis over the top. They tried for Hall before with Kevin Shattenkirk and missed. What if they returned to get the deal done?
The idea of Taylor Hall isn’t an easy one to fathom due to the lingering Petro contract and the cost-but if the asking price from NJ didn’t balloon over what Rutherford was brainstorming with, I’d make the rental deal. For example, if they want Kostin AND Kyrou, I hang up the phone. But in Hall’s final year and no plans to re-sign him, I don’t see them doing that.
The Hall effect on St. Louis in 2019-20 pushes me to the other side. What do you do when you find happiness? You want more damn happiness.
What do you think? I am spent.