As Robin Brownlee wrote yesterday, there’s a rumour going around that Taylor Hall might be open to a reunion with the Edmonton Oilers. Everyone knows that “Tracy Lane” and “her” “source” “Garfield” are questionable at best, but let’s talk about whether or not a Taylor Hall Redemption Tour makes any sense.
After winning back-to-back Memorial Cup MVPs with the Windsor Spitfires, Hall and his fiery style of play were expected to be the saviour of a franchise in disarray. In 2010, Hall became the first-ever Oiler to be selected with the first-overall pick, and thus, he became the face of Edmonton’s Oil Change.
The expectations on Hall’s shoulders were massive. Though he very quickly became the team’s best player, the Oilers continued to struggle due to an imbalanced roster devoid of quality depth and veterans, a capable blueline, and a legitimate goaltender. So while Hall became a very good player, he was never able to singlehandedly push the Oilers to the next level.
In 2014-15, the Oilers slogged through a miserable 24-win season thanks partially to Hall missing 29 games due to various injuries. That injury might have been a blessing in disguise. The Oilers finished with the third-best lottery odds at the Connor McDavid sweepstakes and ended up winning the Golden Ticket. With McDavid in the fold, the saviour of the franchise torch was immediately passed from Hall to the prodigy.
The 2015-16 season was an unfortunate one. McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, and Oscar Klefbom missed significant time due to injury and the Oilers finished well outside of the playoffs with just 70 points. In the off-season, Peter Chiarelli pulled the trigger on a deal that would send Hall to New Jersey in exchange for Adam Larsson.
While the Oilers needed to shore up their blueline with a steady, right-handed defender, this was a massive price to pay. Everything worked out for the Oilers in 2016-17 and the team made the playoffs for the first time in a decade while Hall scored just 53 points on a bad Devils team. The following year, everything went wrong for the Oilers while Hall singlehandedly pulled the Devils to the playoffs with an MVP-winning 93-point season.
It’s been beaten to death at this point, but it’s difficult not to wonder what if. What if Peter Chiarelli didn’t stroll in and jettison Hall to fill another hole on the roster? Would he and McDavid co-exist as linemates? Would they make one of the league’s best one-two punches on separate lines?
The frustrating thing about Hall being traded is that we never got to see him and McDavid play together for an extended time. Thanks to McDavid’s injury, he and Hall only played 75:58 together at even strength during the 2015-16 season. Hall’s most common linemate that season was Leon Draisaitl. The duo posted a 51.85 Goals For percentage together and finished first and second on the team in scoring.
That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday FRIDAY EDITION question. Would you be in favour of a Taylor Hall return to the Oilers? Could he and McDavid form a dynamic one-two punch, giving the Oilers the two elite offensive lines they so desperately covet? Or is it time to move on from the Hall talk forever?
Hall will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2019-20 season for the first time in his career as the seven-year deal he signed with the Oilers back in 2012 comes to an end. Hall could re-up with the Devils, who seem to be turning things around after drafting Jack Hughes and trading for P.K. Subban this off-season. Of course, he could want to come back to Edmonton and prove wrong those who said the Oilers were better off without him. Who knows!
The Oilers cap picture becomes a lot less crowded over the next couple of years. In 2020, Sam Gagner, Kyle Brodziak, and Brandon Manning will come off the books. In 2021, Kris Russell, Nugent-Hopkins, and Adam Larsson will be eligible for free agency. A buyout of James Neal would shrink his cap hit from $5.75 million to just $1,916,667.
There’s room to get a deal done even if it comes with a cap hit around $9-$10 million annually. That said, is it prudent to invest so much cash in a guy with an injury history who would be turning 29 during his first season with the team? I wouldn’t expect Hall to fall off a cliff like Milan Lucic did because Hall is a significantly better player, but there had always been a concern that Hall’s bombastic style of play would result in his NHL career being cut short.
What say you, Nation? Should the Oilers pursue a Taylor Hall Redemption Tour?