The Arizona Coyotes are very interested in keeping Taylor Hall on their roster. Although not much action has taken place to achieve that goal, general manager/President of hockey operations, John Chayka did state he would wait until the season ends to start talks with Hall’s agent.
With the current suspension of play due to the pandemic, most everything has come to a standstill. We aren’t even certain if or when the season will resume, or if the NHL will go right into the playoffs with the same or an alternate format.
Taylor Hall Staying in Arizona Means Roster Changes are Needed
Seeing that Hall is looking forward to a contract in the vicinity of $8-10 million over a long-term deal, the Coyotes just won’t have that kind of financial freedom unless some moves are made. They will have about $6.78 million of cap space and still must consider other free agents into the budget.
So say they wish to keep both Carl Soderberg ($4.75M), and Vinnie Hinostroza ($1.5M). That will reduce their available cap space to use for Hall by $6.25 million without including a raise for each player. And that doesn’t even include keeping Christian Fischer, Brad Richardson, (doubtful he will return), Adin Hill or Ilya Lyubushkin. That pretty much takes any available cap space money needed to retain Hall’s services in Arizona.
Which Players Could be Moved to Afford Hall’s Salary Demands
The team does have some other players it could consider trading to reduce their salary cap. Much could depend on if the salary cap increases to the rumoured $84 million level. Most experts believe it will remain at the present level of $81.5 million, or even decrease. That would place a number of teams in salary cap trouble.
Trade Antti Raanta
Many feel that Antti Raanta while a skilled enough goalie, is just not going to contribute enough with all his injury woes. When he can’t stay healthy, that’s a warning sign that he has some issues to resolve with his health and/or conditioning. Raanta carries a $4.25 million cap hit through next season. His career 88-60-18 record is commendable. He also carries a .921 save percentage and a 2.40 goals-against-average.
His downfall is he has only played in 92 games over three seasons. Some as a backup, but mostly missing games due to injuries. Darcy Kuemper has overtaken him as the starter in between the pipes.
Goalies are hard to come by, and are a treasured commodity. Some NHL team will want to trade for Raanta. Of course, getting something back will be good, even draft picks at this point.
Adin Hill seems ready to step in as an adequate backup and the team is very high on Ivan Prosvetov, playing in the AHL right now.
It seems time to move on from Rannta and get something for him while he’s still worth something.
Trade Derek Stepan
Although Derek Stepan, who will turn 30-years-old in June is not over the hill as a player, his statistics just aren’t there to be paid $6.5 million through next season. When he was with the New York Rangers he averaged over 50 points per season. Since joining the Coyotes in 2017-18, he has only done that once in his first year in the desert. He has faltered to 35 and 28 points in the last two seasons, well below the production needed to pay his excessive salary.
Stepan is a leader in the locker room. He also has had some injury issues limiting his minutes on the ice. Once thought of as the team’s number-one centre, he is nowhere near that plateau now. Time to see if the team can save some of that $6.5 million by trading him. It’s not easy for Chayka to give away a centre (his favourite position) but getting a young centre in return will ease that pain.
Trade Phil Kessel
Phil Kessel has been a bust. There’s no way to sugar coat it. The numbers define his lack of production which was expected since his scoring history shows exactly that. When a team acquires a player who tallied at a point-per-game rate and he goes down to almost half of that, it’s not a pretty picture. His $6.8 million cap hit through the 2021-22 season would certainly need to be studied to see if he is worth that much money, especially when a player like Taylor Hall has produced much more.
Finding a team as a trading partner may be difficult, considering his no-trade clause in his contract. Phil is not easy to get along with at times and Rick Tocchet seems to know how to do that. It would seem that Kessel needs to concentrate more on his training regimen in order to continue his career. There were times where he very noticeably was looking exhausted and had to come off the ice. His shot was not accurate at all, so if Kessel wants to stay here (which it seems he does) he needs to devote more time to his conditioning, especially at his age. He will turn 33 in early October and has shown signs of deteriorating.
Trade Alex Goligoski
Alex Goligoski really stepped up his play this season and is no youngster himself when he turns 35-years-old in July. His play was noticeable as much as Oliver Ekman-Larsson‘s has gone south. He carries a $5.475 million contract through next season. It would seem either he or Jordan Oesterle may be expendable.
That is especially true if the team can bring Kyle Capobianco into a regular rotation on the blueline. Of course, his entry-level contract ends after this season and he would need to be re-signed. The other choice on defence could be Aaron Ness who played 24 games filling in on the blueline averaging about 12 minutes of ice time.
The emergence and development of Victor Soderstrom could also play a factor in deciding what to do with Goligoski or Oesterle. He is expected to be NHL ready sometime next season.
Retaining Taylor Hall will not be easy, yet he gives the team a whole new dimension. His speed and two-way play is well worth making adjustments to the roster to keep him in Arizona. Now, we all await what kind of moves Chayka can formulate to make Hall happy and keep the team competitive.
What may be the deciding factor is if the Coyotes get into a playoff position. That can be by either playing out their remaining 12 games, or by default if they are in the group of teams qualifying in a new format of playoff play in lieu of finishing the season.
Hall wants to be on a winning team and may get a feel for what this team can do going forward if he can perform in a playoff atmosphere. He wants to be competitive and the Coyotes desperately need to win games to stay relevant.
There will more than likely be many suitors for Hall’s services, which could eliminate the Coyotes from competing in the Hall “sweepstakes.” If he likes it here in the desert, we’ll see if he concedes to less money or a shorter-term contract.
Right now, things are in a suspended state with the hopes that the NHL will be back soon. What we don’t know is if Taylor Hall will be back next season in a Coyotes’ jersey.