In a move that seemed impending but was still shocking to say aloud, the Boston Bruins sent 2018 Hart trophy winner Taylor Hall, alongside Nick Foligno to the Chicago Blackhawks for Ian Mitchell and Alec Regula.
If the player value does not make sense to you on that trade, it’s because the financial value does, as this is clearly a salary dump from Boston who looks to retool their record-breaking squad from the regular season, led by a strong desire to re-sign Tyler Bertuzzi.
Hall coming off the books for Boston frees up about $6 million in cap space, where Chicago still has north of $30 million available after the deal, and in reward for this they get a chance to welcome in a veteran presence in Foligno ahead of the Bedard era.
But at just 31-years-old, how did we get to this point in Hall’s career already, and should we walk back some of the reactions we made about New Jersey following the deal in 2019?
While it was no secret that the 6’1 Alberta native was not a fan of playing in Newark, especially when the John Hynes-led squad only totaled north of 72-points once in his time with the Devils, the ‘online General Managers’ did not have an issue with Hall eventually being shipped to the Coyotes, but the return was ridiculed part.
Nick Merkely, Nate Schnarr & Kevin Bahl were the only players the Devils got in return, where Bahl is the only player that still suited up for the Devils this season. But the initial return for New Jersey came with the draft picks.
A 2020 First-Round pick was the biggest part of this deal, which led to the Devils selecting winger Dawson Mercer, who was an NHL-ready prospect who proved it right away, scoring 42 and then 56 points in his first two years while never missing a game.
But even with the 2021 Third-Round pick, which seemed to be the most overlooked layer of the deal, the Devils used this pick to trade to Washington for defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler, who seems to have turned his career projection around since joining the team.
He has played 150 games in the past 2 years, averaging over 20 minutes of ice time a night and even producing 21 points last year.
They both play a significant role for a not-so-significant price in Tom Fitzgerald’s youthful roster, which all seems to have benefited as well from the loss of Hall.
On a financial level, the Devils most likely would have been in the same situation as they are right now with or without Hall’s $6 million per year, as the Devils did overplay their expectations this year following a shorter rebuild.
But the freedom of the team top-to-bottom, and their ability to adapt a more fluid style that may not have meshed with Hall’s style is maybe where we see the biggest difference in terms of what could have been.
Plus, with a smaller and faster core, that seemingly needed a tougher edge to survive in the postseason, being able to afford deals for Dougie Hamilton, Ondrej Palat, and now potentially Timo Meier is a luxury they may not have had in a Hall-led team.
So, time will tell if last year’s 36-point season was due to his regular season injury, but he will not be forced to showcase himself for a potential midseason acquisition to rejoin a contender and look for his first ring.
But for the time being, the Devils may either be deserving of a line of praises for their foresight in the franchise’s future, or maybe a sigh of relief for everything seeming to work out even better than expected.