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Monday the New Jersey Devils pulled the trigger on a big trade, shipping former Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall to Arizona in exchange for prospects Kevin Bahl, Nick Merkley, and Nate Schnarr, as well as a 1st round pick and another conditional selection.
I have many thoughts on this deal so let’s dig in.
• Kevin Bahl is the most notable and valuable prospect included. He’s big, strong physical, and a legitimately good defender. He’s a tough guy to crack in-zone and his range plus above average mobility also make him difficult to navigate around in the neutral zone. Bahl can really defend the line. He’s surprisingly decent at breaking out of his own zone, too. The problem is there’s not much offensive upside there. At all. I know his totals are respectable but he plays on a strong team. I really don’t see a lot there offensively, which caps his upside. The ideal scenario for his development leads him to a serviceable No. 4 who can compliment someone a little more offensive minded. I think it is more likely that he is a 3rd pairing guy and plus penalty killer. Useful, especially considering the Devils don’t have many of his type in the organization, but nothing special.
• Nick Merkley has skill and his AHL numbers have generally been pretty strong, especially considering his age. One of the key concerns with him is skating. I reached out to a couple of people who echoed that sentiment. At 22 he is still young but the clock is ticking on his NHL future. He probably needs to break into the league within a year or two to have a shot at being a full-timer. If he does make it, he’ll do so as a modern-day B6 forward. He’s not going to bring jam but there is some skill.
• Nate Schnarr is another decent but unspectacular prospect. He’s smart and could have a future as a bottom-6 center who can kill some penalties and chip in the occasional goal. He has work to do to get to the next level though.
• Adding another 1st round pick to the stable is great. As I’ve talked about numerous times, the Devils have a talented young core in place with some nice pieces still on the way. A projected top-5 pick will be great, and they can play the lottery (with pretty solid odds) again using the Arizona pick. If they make some noise into the playoffs, and/or Taylor Hall re-signs, and another high pick comes out of the deal, they’ll really be in business.
• I am a little disappointed there were no can’t miss pieces and/or high ceiling prospects in the deal. I think that’s a necessity with a player of Hall’s caliber. I understand he was leaving at the end of the season regardless, and dumping Hall early avoids injury risks (or him winning the Devils any games), but if the Devils don’t hit the draft picks, they’re almost certainly walking away with zero top-6 forwards and zero top-4 defenders for a guy who won MVP in 2017-18. That’s far from ideal.
• At the same token, the Devils were kind of boxed in. Their situation made it impossible to play off the possibility of keeping him and trying to make the dance as leverage. Everybody knows they’re going nowhere and that Hall had to be traded. Getting five 22&U pieces will help further stock the cupboard and/or give the Devils ammunition to try and land more established pieces when they feel they are ready to take the next step.
• All in all, I think GM Ray Shero did OK. Just OK. The quantity is there. If he hits on the picks, the quality will be too. But that’s a big if. Sure, a (likely) late 1st rounder will probably make the NHL at some point. It’s far less certain the late 1st will turn into a very good player. It has to for this deal to be a real success.
My initial take on the Hall trade
Report: Miles Wood is on the trade block
Turning the page
My choices for the Devils’ three stars of the month in November