This year we have a potentially amazing crop of UFA’s set to hit the board. While many of the most desirable, such as Roman Josi and Nik Backstrom look to be resigned by their own clubs, the name of Taylor Hall stands out. Hall, a first overall pick in the 2010 draft, has experienced exactly 5 playoff games in his 10 years of professional hockey. That is not a typo… FIVE playoffs games.
While enduring the never ending horror show that was Edmonton for the first six years of his career, he was then traded in an embarrassingly laughable bad trade one-for-one trade by Peter Chiarelli for Adam Larsson of the New Jersey Devils.
Since being traded, Hall has continued to be an advanced stats master. He drives possession and is one of the rare players who is able to carry a team on his back single-handedly as he demonstrated when he carried the Devils to the post season in the 2017-2018 season.
However, New Jersey is a team struggling out of the blocks this year. It seems that injuries may have rendered Cory Schneider unable to continue to play as a high end starter and the back up, Mackenzie Blackwood, has struggled as well. And beyond the net, there just seems to be a bad mix of players on this roster. The whole is somehow less than the parts. When you add it all up, it seems that without a miraculous turnaround, that Taylor Hall is destined to be traded at or before the deadline and likely to see the start of free agency.;
Enter the Canucks. While this team has suffered under the watch of Jim Benning with horrible free agent signings and bad trades throughout his tenure, a Taylor Hall signing would be a perfect fit for a team that is on the rise despite his previous bad moves. They are also a team that has the ability to move around some money to make space on their cap while also leaving some room for the upcoming signing of Elias Petterson in two years time.
STEP #1: Trade for Hall at or before the deadline.
If Hall becomes available and the Canucks are in a playoff spot, they should be knocking on the door to find out what it would take to get him. While this would be tricky with Benning giving away the first round pick either this year or next for J.T. Miller, you could focus the remaining pick as part of the deal. If we assume that the Canucks are entering into a “win now” mode, then the time to start giving away a couple picks is now. Looking at the needs of the Devils, packaging up potential pieces such as Olli Juolevi or Michael DePietro, and a second round pick, with an extra first round pick if you resign Hall seems to be a good place to begin.
If not in a playoff spot, then it is wait and hope he hits free agency to make your pitch.
STEP #2: Signing Hall
The Canucks would need to make some tricky moves happen to make room for Hall but it is do-able. First of all we have to assume the cap is staying essentially flat and that Hall is going to garner around 10-11 million per season to sign. The Canucks are gaining some room with the contracts of Chris Tanev (4,45M), Tim Schaller (1,9M), Josh Leivo (1.5M), and Troy Stetcher (2.325M) expiring. This collectively adds 10.175 million dollars in space.
There is also some trade possibilities as players such as:
Sven Baertschi – He is lighting it up in the AHL, could continue to do so and would be a player that is of interest at the deadline to a team seeking some forward depth. While his one remaining year after this one at $2,291,666 could be a stumbling block, if he is performing well someone will likely accept it.
Chris Tanev: If he can manage to stay healthy this year and he would certainly be of interest for a pick at the deadline as well.
Then you have to convince Hall you are for real. Luckily the Canucks have some good selling points. They are strong down the middle and have some good RW options ensuring he gets to play with and elite center in Petterson and Boeser on the right side. The hard part would be selling him on the piece meal defensive core. No team has won a Stanley cup without a true #1 defenseman and the Canucks have not had one of those in a very, very long time. Quinn Hughes is an elite young offensive defenseman who has an amazing career ahead of him but he is young and lacks any physical presence. Alex Edler is 5 years past his prime and so often injured that the team players almost as much without him as with him.
STEP #3: Addressing other needs.
Assuming you can sign Hall with that free money it still leaves holes on an already suspect D corp as well as a UFA goalie in Markstrom to re-sign. This is where you have to get creative. Admittedly this is not Jim Benning’s strong suit but anything is possible.
Markstrom is likely to be demanding in the 7.5M over 7 or 8 seasons as this is his one chance to cash in. If Demko has stumbled this year then you have to consider this price. However, if Demko is looking like the real deal NHL starter, then money is better spent on a goalie like Anton Khudobin to be a 1A behind him and save the money and term that Markstrom will command. This translates into an estimated savings of $5M per season. Money that can be used to address the holes on D.
This $5 million, as well as finding a dance partner for one of Bennings awful “anchor contracts” such as Brandon Sutter or, if he has a decent year, a player such as Tanner Pearson, and buying out Jay Beagle or Antoine Roussel then perhaps addressing the needs with a UFA such as Alex Pietrangelo could make this the off season of all off seasons for this team that is so in need of it.
We can but hope.