It took a few days and plenty of speculation, but Taylor Hall trade watch is over and the forward is feeling good about his change in fortune.
Following Monday’s trade to the Coyotes, Hall left a Devils team sitting 30th in the NHL to join one atop the Pacific Division with an eye on making the postseason for the first time since 2012.
“I think the opportunity I have with the Arizona Coyotes is awesome,” Hall said on a Monday evening conference call. “To jump that many points in the standings overnight and to join a team that is in first place. Hockey guys will tell you that as the season goes on and the playoff push is really starting to become more important, hockey becomes so fun. I’ve only played five playoff games but those five playoff games, I can remember those in great detail because they were so fun and really was the highlight of my NHL career. So much opportunity for me in the next few months and really just looking forward to that, meeting with the group.”
Hall, who will wear No. 91 in Arizona, is likely to make his Coyotes debut Tuesday against the Sharks.
“It’s a rare opportunity, potentially once in a lifetime, where you get a chance to acquire a player of this caliber, with his background, that again we think fits directly a need that we have if we want to be a contending team,” said Coyotes general manager John Chayka. “He’s got great character, he’s a good person, and he’s an elite player in the League. So to check all those boxes was something we felt we couldn’t miss out on if the price is right, and we felt like it was.”
How Hall’s time in New Jersey ended was a possibility, but given GM Ray Shero’s aggressiveness in free agency Hall, who can become an unrestricted free agent this summer, being traded in mid-December was low on the list of expected outcomes.
The Devils’ poor start could not be saved and head coach John Hynes was fired on Dec. 3. That started the countdown clock to a Hall trade. Since it was very unlikely he was going to sign an in-season extension, there was no choice for Shero but to recoup assets.
When trade talks heated up Friday the Devils made the decision to keep Hall out of the lineup against the Avalanche. Nothing materialized that night, so he was scratched Saturday in Arizona. It was only a matter of time before a deal was made, and no one was more happy to see it all come to a conclusion than Hall.
“The first day was fine, missing the first game was fine, but after that, you start to think a little bit,” Hall said. “Really, I was just anxious to get moved and see where I end up, and obviously it’s a great spot for me. So that’s what kind of transpired. It’s been a whirlwind few days, but at the end of the day, it looks like I’ll be playing hockey [Tuesday] night, so I’m happy.”
It’s still early days, but the potential of Hall lining up alongside Clayton Keller and Phil Kessel makes for a dangerous top line. Chayka will certainly wait before gauging Hall’s interest in an extension, so for now his focus is on winning hockey games.
“I’ve been open to anything and I haven’t closed the book on signing with any team prior to July 1,” Hall said. “Talking to John Chayka, that’s something we can discuss as time goes on, but I think both sides are really comfortable with just playing and letting the contract stuff sort itself out. Really, that’s not what I’m focused on. I just want to come and help win games, get to the playoffs, and do some damage there.”