By: Andy Palm, Columnist
The New Jersey Devils season is not going as planned. After drafting forward Jack Hughes first overall, and the big-time offseason acquisitions of defenseman PK Subban and right winger Wayne Simmonds to accompany left winger Taylor Hall; the Devils were expecting to be highly competitive this year.
Almost halfway through the year, New Jersey is the not-so proud owner of the second worst record in the league at 12-19-6 (30 points). After firing their coach, it seems this team is now looking at the big picture rather than the short term. That movement was confirmed this week, when the team traded a former MVP in Hall to the Arizona Coyotes for a 2020 first round pick (conditional), a 2021 third round pick (conditional), and three prospects.
Hall, 28, is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the season; and is looking to cash in on a big contract this summer. Extending Hall was previously stated to be a huge priority for the Devils. Had the season gone a bit differently, that may have still been the case. Where Hall will be for the foreseeable future is yet to be determined, what we do know is he will be spending the rest of this season in the desert. A team that has quietly put together a very talented roster, and is looking to make the playoffs comfortably this season.
Arizona made a splash before the season started by trading forward Alex Galchenyuk to the Pittsburgh Penguins for talented goal scorer Phil Kessel. Kessel was unhappy in Pittsburgh and somewhat forced this move to happen. Arizona has become a team that was rebuilding and gearing up for the future, to a team that could very well be dangerous come springtime. The addition of Hall puts them in a spot where they now have a star leader and multiple lines that can be real scoring threats.
Arizona is a very balanced team, they don’t rely too heavily on one individual to shoulder the load. There are decent players on both the front and back end of the ice. They also have gotten very solid goaltending from both Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta. Putting Hall into the equation makes things fairly dangerous in the desert.
With Hall’s arrival, he is already tied for third in points and is second in assists on the Coyotes, including his stats from New Jersey. Putting him on the same line as Phil Kessel is a wise move for production purposes. Kessel has shown when he is put on the ice with players who are very good at puck placement, he can score at an elite level.
The Coyotes are looking to be competitive this postseason, but the remainder of the year will also serve as an audition to see if giving Hall an extension is something the team wants to do. The same thing goes from Hall’s standpoint. Being a former MVP, and overall one of the top 20 players in the league will give him the flexibility to choose where he wants to go. If all goes well in Arizona for the rest of the year, it could be the perfect match.