Evaluating the Taylor Hall Trade

The Devils have finally traded former Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall. (Photo by: USA Today Sports)

Introduction

Alas, it finally happened! The saga that felt weeks-long finally came to an end this evening, as it was announced Taylor Hall was traded to the Arizona Coyotes. Hall is joined by fellow-Devil Blake Speers and in return, are receiving three prospects and two conditional picks. 

The conditions on the draft picks seem complicated, so let’s break them down. The 2020 first-round pick has a chance to be delayed until 2021. If the Coyotes miss the playoffs and find themselves with a top-three pick, the pick will then become a 2021 first-round selection. As for the 2021 third-round pick, it can become a first-round selection if the Coyotes win a playoff series and Taylor Hall re-signs. Or it will become a second-round pick if the Coyotes win a playoff series. If either one of these scenarios does not occur, then the pick will remain a 2021 third-round pick. 

The three prospects are forward Nick Merkley, forward Nate Schnarr, and defenseman Kevin Bahl. Now, these prospects are not considered the Coyotes’ top, however, they are solid. A further breakdown of each can be seen below

The Prospects

Nick Merkley 

The 22-year-old right-wing — who can also play center — was the Coyotes first-round pick in 2015. The 5-foot-10 playmaker is described to have excellent vision and being a hard worker. Merkley only has one game of NHL experience under his belt, and it came three years ago. Most of his professional career has been spent in the AHL.

This AHL experience spans parts of three years with the Tucson Roadrunners. Most recently, he has been serving on the team’s first line as the right-wing. In 109 career AHL games, he has 89 points, which is a point rate of 0.82. However, after tallying 39 points in 38 games his first season and 34 points in 45 games in year two, he has regressed to only 16 points in 26 games this season. All-in-all of the three prospects, Merkley is the most NHL-ready. Expect to see him in the red and black before the season ends.

Nate Schnarr

The former 2017 third-round draft pick has good size, as he stands 6-foot-3 weighing in at 181 pounds. Schnarr is a former prolific point scorer in the OHL, where tallied 181 points in 182 games with the Guelph Storm, with 102 points and a plus-43 rating in only 65 games in his final season. 

Schnarr most recently served as the fourth-line centerman for the Roadrunners. In his first professional season, he only has nine points in 22 games, however, he does own a +10 rating. Hopefully, he will show the scoring in the OHL was no fluke as he continues to adjust to the professional playing style.

Look for Schnarr to get much more of a chance with Binghamton. However, I would not expect him to be in the red and black for a few more years, as he still needs quite a bit of developing. Hopefully, after some seasoning in the AHL, he will make meaningful contributions in the future.

Kevin Bahl

The massive 6-foot-6, 231-pound Bahl is only 19 years old and is a former second-round pick in 2018. It was rumored the past couple days this was the main piece holding up a deal between the Devils and Coyotes. Ultimately, it seems general manager Ray Shero got his way.

The left-handed defenseman is the definition of a defensive defenseman, as he is described as one of the few complete shutdown defensemen in the OHL. He also reportedly does an exceedingly superb job in denying opponents’ zone entries and uses his size to play a physical game. This is a type of defenseman the Devils’ haven’t seen in years come through their system. 

The one knock on Bahl is his offensive game, as he is seen — as is mentioned above — a primarily defensive defenseman. However, after only posting 34 points in 68 games two years ago, Bahl has shown some signs of life, as he has 20 points in only 28 games this season. 

Newly acquired Devil Kevin Bahl practiced on Team Canada’s second pairing yesterday.

Bahl seems to be the center point of this deal, and how he develops will be very telling for the overall value the Devils received in this trade. The Athletic’s Corey Proman classifies Bahl as a, “very good, legit-bubble,” prospect. This is a good sign and helps makes sense of the reason why Ray Shero sought after him.

As for an estimated time of arrival to the NHL, I would expect the 2021-22 season. However, luckily for Devils’ fans, it seems we may get a sneak peek of Bahl, as he may get a chance to represent his country at the World Junior Championships (see above).

Conclusion

Time will only tell how the Devils made out in this trade. However, given Taylor Hall was almost certain to not re-sign and hit the open market this offseason, the Devils needed to make a move. Given Shero’s history, I trust he took the best deal that was available to him. 

The prospects he nabbed were highly ranked in a Coyotes’ farm system that is described as league average. The Athletic’s Corey Proman ranked Bahl as the Coyotes third-best prospect, Merkley the fifth, and Schnarr the seventh. Add in who the Devils take with the first-round pick they got and their farm system — which has been lacking for years — is finally looking above average.

All-in-all as Devils’ fans, we need to trust Shero made the deal that was the best presented. And at first, it may not seem as win. But, as time passes I think we will see the value he received was well worth it.

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