Taylor Hall is having an incredible year. He had a 26 game point streak, and he has played his way into the Hart Trophy conversation on a New Jersey Devils team that has put itself in a playoff position for the first time since going to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012. However, Hall’s recent success and another lost season for Adam Larsson and the Oilers have Oilers fans angrier at Peter Chiarelli for making that trade than ever before.
Despite the optics, I still like the trade.
People say that Chiarelli got fleeced by Ray Shero in that negotiation. I disagree. Taylor Hall is a great left winger, and Larsson is a questionable top pair defender; so people wonder on what planet that was an even trade. Of course Taylor Hall is a better player than Adam Larsson; but in the NHL marketplace with the value of a top pairing, right-handed defenceman being more than the value of a top left-handed winger, and with the situation the Oilers were in having a clear need on defence, the trade worked out to be pretty even.
On a given night, an NHL team ices 8 wingers, 6 defencemen, 4 centres, and 2 goalies. Based on that logic, defencemen have a higher value than wingers because there are fewer of them in the league. When Chiarelli was hired in 2015, the Oilers defence was a disaster. His mandate initially was to improve the defence. Chiarelli was dealing from a position of weakness based on the high value of top pairing defencemen and based on the team’s needs. He was put in that position by the previous regime. After finishing with a lottery pick once again in the 2015-16 season, Oilers fans would’ve ripped Chiarelli apart if he hadn’t improved the defence that off-season. None of that was his fault.
Not only was Chiarelli was looking for the more valuable piece, but it had to specifically be a right-handed defender (who are much scarcer than left-handed defenders) that could play on the top pair (very rare). “Scarce” and “rare” are alternative ways of saying expensive. The fact that this expensive need was obvious to anyone who was watching didn’t help Chiarelli’s position at the negotiating table. Again, that wasn’t his fault.
The other idea that needs to be considered when analyzing the Hall trade is the salary cap. When Chiarelli was hired, Draisaitl was in the system, and we all knew the Oilers were about to select McDavid in the draft. The day was going to come where both of those players would get paid; and starting next year, it will be a total of $21 million per season for those two. That’s why the extra year of team control and the $1.83 million in cap savings the Oilers got with Larsson was valuable.
At the time of the trade, the Oilers had an excess of talented forwards and a deficiency on the blue line. The tradable options were Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Connor McDavid had just finished his sensational rookie season, and it was unclear whether or not Leon Draisaitl would be able to build on his break-out season. They needed to keep Nugent-Hopkins because they needed the insurance at the centre position. As we learned with the subsequent Eberle trade, Hall was the winger that would provide the greatest return. Shero wanted Hall, and that was the end of the story. The Devils got the better player, but the trade was even based on Shero having the preceding negotiation advantages. Chiarelli was put in a tough position because of the previous regime. He was hired to make tough decisions, and he did what needed to be done.
I remember people clamouring for Chiarelli to trade Hall for a player like Shea Weber or PK Subban. Franchise winger for franchise defenceman. Sorry to break it to you, but the idea that Hall at that time would’ve yielded an elite right-handed offensive defenceman such as Weber or Subban is laughable.
I’ve already written about how defencemen are more valuable than wingers. Weber was regarded as one of the best defencemen in the NHL, and Subban was on the cusp of being in the same conversation. Hall was two seasons removed from his career-high 80 point season; but besides that, he hadn’t scored more than 65 points in a season. Hall was left off of Team Canada’s 2016 World Cup of Hockey roster. He was beat out by Brad Marchand, who was coming off of a career-high 61 point season. He couldn’t score as much as Hall could, but Team Canada still chose him over Hall. What does that say? It certainly doesn’t say that Hall was one of the best left wingers in the NHL at that time.
Weber and Subban were traded for each other about 20 minutes after Hall was traded… the only asset strong enough to land an elite right-handed offensive defenceman in his prime was a younger elite right-handed offensive defenceman!
Currently, the Oilers need to find scoring wingers that are faster than what they have now. “WE ALREADY HAD ONE OF THOSE!!!” said the angry Oilers fan. Taylor Hall fits the bill… we get it. Here are team scoring stats from the Oilers’ best scoring season with Hall on the team (2011-12), the year that Hall and McDavid were both on the team (2015-16), and both subsequent seasons since the Hall trade:
2011-12: 207 goals (2.52 goals/game)
2015-16: 199 goals (2.43 goals/game)
2016-17: 243 goals (2.96 goals/game)
2017-18: 197 goals (2.74 goals/game) *through 72 games
The numbers show that the Oilers have scored more goals without Taylor Hall than they ever did with him in the lineup! Even in the year that both Hall and McDavid were on the team. Huh… that’s a head scratcher, isn’t it? The numbers don’t lie.
So let’s stop with the “we got ripped off for Hall and we never should’ve traded him” argument… It’s old, tiresome, and entirely false.
Hall is a great player. It hurt to give him up, and it would be cool to have him still… but here is what I would say to fans that are bitter about the trade: Each team ices 8 wingers, 6 defencemen, 4 centres, and 2 goalies every night. Wingers are the easiest pieces to replace because there are simply more of them available to choose from. It may not have happened yet, but the Oilers will find the wingers they need. Be bitter about the trade if you want to be, but I’m choosing to just say congratulations to Taylor Hall on his great season.