Taylor Hall doesn’t play defense. This is a fact. A heartbreaking one because the Leafs need defense. The Leafs still would need to find a way to address that need, but the solution isn’t Taylor Hall. That doesn’t mean that Taylor Hall shouldn’t be a target for the Leafs in free agency, because last time I checked, Taylor is a damned good hockey player, one who can make Toronto better, and one that allows Toronto to explore different options via trade later on.
Sources say the Arizona Coyotes are shopping the rights to Taylor Hall.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) October 5, 2020
So that’s the catalyst for my Taylor Hall bullshit this morning. It’s become clear that he’s not sticking around Arizona (no real surprise) and he’s going to hit free agency on Friday. I wouldn’t say that shopping for his rights is a particularly good idea unless Toronto wants to dump some salary in the process of acquiring him or simply feel that having 11 picks in the draft this year is too stressful.
Chris Johnston on Headlines says Taylor Hall will entertain 1 or 2 yr deals.
— NHL Watcher (@NHL_Watcher) October 4, 2020
While I’m not sure that this is particularly the advantage to Toronto that some are painting it as, if the assumption is that Hall is acknowledging he won’t be reaching his full market value in the next couple of years and will try again post COVID, the Leafs do have the advantage of paying him out most of his money in a signing bonus. Something that guarantees him most of his pay even if it is a shortened season. Other teams might not be as comfortable with that. Other teams might not want to gamble two years of that, but Toronto can certainly afford it.
As for why Hall would choose Toronto, well, he’s been light on elite centers in the past few years, and in Toronto it’s pretty likely he’ll get paired with one. There’s also that a recent boat license recipient will like living near Muskoka, and given that he just bought a home Forest Hill, he seems to be settling in to Toronto for at least part of the year anyway.
The biggest hiccup besides the cap space to bringing Hall to Toronto might be that he’s represented by Darren Ferris, an agent that certainly made life difficult for the Leafs last fall with the Marner contract, and while Dubas is paid to deal with difficult agents, perhaps he’s enough of a reason to not prioritize Hall. Especially when adding a winger isn’t the Leafs concern this offseason.
There is also the matter of the cap space, and a player two seasons removed from winning the Hart trophy probably will commend a big pay day. The fact that he only put up 52 points last year might temper that payday, but again, there’s no reason to believe that Hall will be so cheap that the Leafs can bring him in, keep their core, and address other areas of the roster.
Bringing in Hall does allow for the Leafs to possibly explore movement with their other top six wingers. A cheaper Hall could mean that Marner or Nylander (preferably Marner) are moveable for a top pairing RHD. Of course, Darren Ferris might complicate that, and moving the value of the Nylander contract isn’t ideal, but as we saw last summer with the Kadri trade, Dubas will move his good value contracts if he believes in the return.
The reality of the situation is that Hall isn’t likely to be a Leaf. It’s fun to think that he could be. At least for me, but with around $6M to spend on re-signing Dermott, Mikheyev, and addressing their defensive needs, we might be better off cooling it on the expectations of Toronto landing a big fish. The good news for Toronto might be that Hall is looking at short deal and they could try for him again seriously next summer. That’s probably the best way for this to play out.