When the trade was announced the entire hockey world gave a collective “Huh?” The Edmonton OIlers have traded Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson and what? Nothing else? A straight one for one trade? This simply had to be a mistake. No general manager in the NHL could make such a horrible blunder. Could they?
It turned out that they could and did. Peter Chiarelli, in his desperation for defensive help, traded away the most consistent offensive threat of the last 4 or 5 years. In return he got a defenseman with limited offensive upside but with defensive abilities that made him a good #3 or, if he continued to develop, #2 defenseman.
Hall’s value to the Oilers was largely overshadowed by their lack of any meaningful success as a team. Management turnover, bad signings, and a refusal to improve the areas of need had them floundering in the NHL basement year after year.
This was not the fault of Hall who, even with a largely AHL level defense core, drove possession and, over the last five years, put up 0.857 points per game. This was good for 20th in the league ahead of such players as Nikita Kucherov, Joe Thornton, Anze Kopitar, and Phil Kessel just to name a few. And he did it with almost no puck moving defensemen to get him the puck.
The damage to the Oiler’s future with the moving of Hall was hidden last year by a combination of teams being surprised by the Oilers and by loading up everything they had on a single line with McDavid and Draisaitl. This is never a long term solution as teams are only taken by surprise once, and defending a single line, no matter how good, is not a huge challenge to most NHL defenses.
Adam Larsson is going to be a very good piece on the back end for the Oilers for a long time to come. If the cost had been Ryan Nugent Hopkins or Jordan Eberle it would have been a slight overpay but excusable. An elite scorer like Hall should have brought back a true #1 defenseman or Adam Larsson and either a 1st round pick or a good forward prospect like Michael McLeod or Alexander Kerfoot.
After a rough first year in New Jersey, Taylor Hall is once again an offensive force. He has accumulated 15 points in 11 games and is making the players around him better. If he can start to avoid the little injuries he seems to suffer every year, he should be a constant presence in the leagues top scorers.
Chiarelli better start hoping that 2016 4th round pick Jesse Puljujarvi starts developing into an impact NHL winger or he could watch the lowly New Jersey Devils become a cup contender with Hall leading the team sooner than the McDavid driven Oilers.