The ultimate Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson retrospective, six years later
By Zach Laing4 months ago
The deal was one-for-one.
Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson.
It was a deal in the works for weeks and on June 29th, 2016, the hockey world was sent into a flurry when the Edmonton Oilers and New Jersey Devils made this massive deal.
The Oilers needed help desperately on the back end and the emergence of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl as bonafide stars opened the door for then-Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli to do the unthinkable: trade a major asset. In hindsight, he severely underestimated just how much the Edmonton market valued Hall.
Chiarelli was eviscerated from the south side to the north side, and from east to west in the city. Public enemy number one, to say the least. His operating theory: the Oilers needed to be harder to play against. In his eyes and that of the Oilers, star free agent Milan Lucic was set to be an Oiler days later and would help offset the lost offense from Hall’s departure.
We all know how that went.
“He’s not a sexy defenceman,” Chiarelli told reporters at a press conference following the deal. “He’s not in the spotlight. He probably doesn’t deserve to be in the spotlight. I can assure you, this last year, he has come into his own. He’s becoming a very good defenceman in this league.
“We pounded the pavement, and this is the price you have to pay.”
On its surface, it was a near-impossible pill to swallow.
Hall was coming off one of his best seasons with the Oilers in 2015-16 — a year that saw him put up 26 goals and 65 points, his second-best season in each of the three scoring categories. Hall found himself playing with Leon Draisaitl and Teddy Purcell and the trio packed a potent offensive punch. They consistently controlled the pace of play and handily outscored their opposition.
Larsson, meanwhile, was munching minutes for the Devils that year playing 22:31 per night. He scored three goals and 18 points and was known for a penchant for defensive zone play — admittedly something the Oilers lacked. While there was little offensive upside, Larsson was strong at clearing his zone and getting the puck up the ice.
No matter Larsson’s prowess on the backend, Hall appeared to be really coming into his own at 24 years old and was entering the prime of his career. To move him for a stay-at-home defenceman was a headscratcher.
Neither was wrong. Larsson was a fine defenceman at the time, but the value was miles apart.
Nonetheless, there was a saving grace that Lucic was arriving… right? Well, to some. Too much for too long was the biggest breaker in the Lucic deal — one that the Oilers had to wriggle themselves out of three years into a seven-year deal.
But now, years later, there are few resemblances left of the Hall for Larsson deal for either the Oilers or the Devils as the two teams prepare to square up Thursday night in Edmonton.
In New Jersey, Hall ended up having some of the best years of his career. He scored 53 points in 72 games in his first year there and followed up with a career season in 2017-18 where he scored 39 goals and 93 points earning him a Hart Trophy and his first and only trip to the All-Star game. His time in Jersey came to an end amid the 2019-20 season when he was dealt to the Arizona Coyotes in a massive deal that included a first-round pick and multiple prospects. None turned out to be of any value to the Devils.
He played out the remainder of the year there, before signing a one-year, $8-million deal with the Buffalo Sabres to play alongside Jack Eichel. While the deal made some sense giving him a chance to boost his value, it was nothing short of a flop. He scored just two goals and 19 points in 37 games, and was dealt to the Boston Bruins for a prospect and a pick. Hall’s remained there over the past two and a half seasons signing a long-term deal while scoring 33 goals and 82 points in 107 games.
Larsson took some time to settle into his new team, but over the course of his five seasons in Edmonton, it was hard to look at him as a bad player. He did a good, not great job of suppressing other teams’ offence but played with a physical edge the Oilers lacked. His best time in Edmonton came playing alongside Oscar Klefbom and the pair were nothing short of tough to play against.
Still, Larsson never provided the value he should’ve given what the Oilers gave up for him. He never developed into a true No. 1 defenceman and at best was likely just a good No. 3 rearguard.
Things weren’t always easy for Larsson in Edmonton. He was a scapegoat and had a target on his back for likely far too long. His father, Robert Larsson, tragically passed away on Jan. 25, 2018, from a heart attack while visiting in Edmonton. It led to being one of the reasons he left for the Seattle Kraken.
For the Oilers, they spent years trying to replace the secondary scoring that Hall would’ve continued to bring to the roster. Many players cycled through Edmonton before eventually, the club brought in Zach Hyman and Evander Kane to provide the scoring punch they longed for.
While both organizations felt that the deal was the right one at the time for both of them, it hardly worked out for either the way they likely hoped. The Devils made the playoffs in 2017-18 with Hall, but lost in five games to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Larsson, meanwhile, would play big roles in three playoff appearances for the Oilers: 2016-17 when the Oilers went two rounds into the playoffs, and both the pandemic playoff years where the Oilers lost to the Chicago Blackhawks and Winnipeg Jets.
Had the deal not been consummated, the Oilers likely would’ve kept searching for help on the back end and likely would’ve had to make a trade at some point. Neither that 2017, nor 2018 class of free-agent defencemen featured what the Oilers were looking for.
However you cut it, we’ll never know what could’ve been had the Oilers held onto Taylor Hall.
Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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