Edmonton Oilers: Should they bring back Taylor Hall in any capacity?

Is it worth bringing Taylor Hall back to the Edmonton Oilers? Let’s talk about the pros and cons of such a move.

There’s been a lot of press lately about the Edmonton Oilers bringing back Taylor Hall.  I’ve written about this before but as it’s a topic that doesn’t seem to go away – and of course things change as time progresses – it might be worthwhile to explore it again.

I’ll be looking at this from many different angles, but let’s do a general checklist first.

Pros

The Oilers are still one solid piece short in their top six

Right now it’s safe to say with their renaissance this season – for the first time in over a decade – the Oilers are playoff contenders right now, and while they’ve got a pretty decent top six right now, there’s one spot more than any other in the top 6 that no one has as of yet grabbed onto for good.

The first line is pretty much set in stone right now – McD, Dr. Drai, and the Zack Attack.  That line, injuries notwithstanding, you can pretty much chisel in stone. The second line has two solid players in Nuge and The Real Deal James Neal, and at the beginning of the year we thought that Alex Chiasson was the guy to stay at RW on the second line, but he has been one of the few disappointments this year and has spent most of his season in the bottom six.

If we could bring Hall back into the fold, we could move Neal to the RW spot and have two great snipers on the second line (Neal, Hall) to play with a great playmaker (Nuge). That would certainly make for a fantastic second line.

He might want to come back for a redemption tour

In his initial go-around here, Hall had pretty good numbers but had a reputation as a bit of an attention-seeking playboy at local nightclubs and such, and veterans on that team calling him – along with others of the era – out for dogging it in practices.

The trade to New Jersey – say about it what you will – but one of the good things it did was to humble Hall and give him an attitude adjustment.  His off-ice behavior has not been the same in NJ as it was in Edmonton, from what I’ve heard.

The Oilers have also changed out a lot of players since the last time Hall was here.  So lots of the guys who were (allegedly) dogging it with him are not there anymore – and I’m not sure you’d find any advocates on the team these days for dogging it in practice anymore.

He could put all those rumors to rest, though, by donning the colors again and showing all his critics.  NHL players have a huge competitive streak, don’t underestimate this.

The two best players in the league play here

The Oilers are a much better team than they were before Hall was traded, so naturally, they would now be on his radar.  Edmonton gives him as much of a chance to win the cup – with him on it – as much as any other club can offer him.

But no other club can offer him the opportunity to have Draisaitl and Connor Mcdavid as teammates – and he had that for one season so he knows exactly what he has with those guys.

Cons

He’d cost a lot – in a trade or as a free agent

As the biggest name available, naturally, he’s going to command a lot both at the trade deadline and during free agency – 2 times we know GMs can go a little nuts and make mistakes.

Ken Holland may look at a bidding war and decide that it’s not worth it. The Oilers have a solid prospect pipeline but aren’t at the point where they have so many they can start dealing them away – and although the situation in draft picks is better – currently the Oilers would be drafting at 27th in the 1st round – they could still be sending Jersey a pick that allows them to pick up a key piece of their lineup that we’ll have missed out on.

Also, at 28 who says Hall will cover that bet by the end of his contract?  We all remember what happened when we signed Milan Lucic, right?  Do we want to go through that again? Rumor has it Hall is looking for $11 million a season.  Considering the Oilers already have $21 million tied up in 2 players for years to come, if they signed him for that they could turn into what the Maple Leafs are turning into now after they signed John Tavares.  Now look at how many d-men’s contracts are up for renewal – and their D isn’t that great to begin with.

Yeah, it’s not pretty.  Now imagine what would happen to the Oiler’s ability to ice a winner if they had 3 guys tied up at $32 million/year, almost half the cap.  Not good, and definitely hampers the team’s ability to do anything to improve their team or to retain their prospects. The Oilers will have a lot of bad contracts coming off the books after this season but they still have to re-sign Zack Kassian and Darnell Nurse, and Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones for good measure.

You’re signing him until he’s 35

He’s 28 now, and you know every other team will have to offer him the max. years of seven in his next contract.  He’ll be 35 when that contract ends.  What if he starts crapping it two years earlier? Yeah, it’s not good. The only reason the Oilers could get rid of Lucic’s contract was that they suckered (I mean traded) him to Calgary in exchange for one of their problem contracts who hasn’t been a problem contract for us. Could we get that lucky again? Somehow I doubt it.

What about bringing him in as a rental? 

The Oilers might be able to get Hall as a rental if they sent Jersey, say, our second-round picks for the next two years plus a lower level one in 2021 – we’ll call it the fourth-rounder just for kicks. But you’re only getting a handful of games plus playoffs with Hall – and he’s only played five games in the playoffs so we don’t know for sure if he can handle it.

What about as a free agent? 

You will have to get creative.  Even with the cap space opening up this year, any Hall contract would probably take up most of the free space – and we’d still have to rid ourselves of a contract as a salary dump.  Think of all the guys we have in the pipeline who we might not be able to afford…..

That being said, if Holland is able to convince him to take less money to sign here or get creative with the contract, maybe it might be possible.  Here’s what that might look like:

Year 1:  $11 million

Year 2:  $9 million

Year 3:  $7.5 million

Year 4:  $6 million

Year 5:  $5 million

Year 6:  $4 million

Year 7:  $3.5 million

AAV:  $6.57 million

That meets the CBA’s requirement of a decrease of max. 20 percent year over year, while at the same time giving the Oilers a cap hit they could reasonably work with that’s not much more than what he’s making now, and still allows Hall to pocket $46 million over seven seasons.

Bottom line

Hall is the top free agent, so there will be a lot of teams asking about him.  His problem is 2 fold:  the teams that could afford to pay him $11 million a year are pretty terrible, while the teams that aren’t terrible probably can’t afford to pay him $11 million a year.

Holland got pretty creative with Detroit’s contracts when he was GM of the Red Wings, so he could do the same thing with a new Hall contract. Of course, he’s also been successful at convincing players to sign with his team for less money.

There’s a lot of hockey reasons for the Oilers to sign Hall, but that doesn’t mean he’s a fit here. In the end, it’ll be interesting to see if/how Holland handles this one.  The Oilers could certainly use him but they may see cheaper options already in their system or from the outside.

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