GLENDALE, Ariz. — Taylor Hall wanted out of New Jersey. The Coyotes needed a scoring boost.
Arizona’s deal with the Devils turned out to be a perfect match for both.
Taylor got the change of scenery he wanted, to an up-and-coming team in contention for a playoff spot, no less. The Coyotes got a top-line scorer without having to give up much in return.
“To keep the group together, it was almost too good to be true, and we were very fortunate and opportunistic,” Coyotes general manager John Chayka said during Hall’s introductory news conference on Wednesday. With support from ownership, these things come together, and so far it’s been great.”
The Coyotes have undergone a shift, both philosophically and financially, since Alex Meruelo became majority owner this summer.
Typically the franchise watching other teams go after the biggest names on the market, Arizona made the largest splash of the off-season, trading for highly-productive forward Phil Kessel. The move came 10 days after Meruelo was approved by the NHL’s Board of Governors.
The Coyotes are off to one of their best starts in years behind two superb goalies and a steady defence. They still have struggled to score despite the addition of Kessel, so instead of sitting back and trying to grind out wins, they went out and tried to find an immediate fix.
Taylor fits that bill perfectly.
The 28-year-old has scored at least 20 goals in six of his nine NHL seasons and eclipsed 25 assists seven times. He had 39 goals and 54 points while winning the 2018 Hart Trophy as the league MVP and had six goals with 20 assists before the trade.
Hall had an immediate impact on his new team, setting up the winning goal in Arizona’s 3-2 win over San Jose Tuesday night.
I just know when John told me we acquired Taylor, the juice — not so much for the coaching staff — just trickled down,” Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said. “The excitement that you acquire a guy like him is something that I think the fanbase is so excited about. I know John made a point: They deserve it.”
The Coyotes have not made the playoffs since reaching the 2012 Western Conference Finals, but have taken steps to rebuild the past few seasons under Chayka. Arizona added players like Nick Schmaltz, Derek Stepan, Carl Soderberg, Antti Raanta, Darcy Kuemper and Michael Grabner. Arizona also drafted Clayton Keller, Jakob Chychrun and Barrett Hayton under Chayka.
The Kessel trade was an eye-popping move by the franchise and they shook up conventional wisdom again by trading for Hall.
“Between Phil Kessel and Taylor, it’s a paradigm shift in how we’re operating and the things we’re doing here,” Chayka said.
The trade gives Hall an opportunity he’s rarely had during during stints with Edmonton and New Jersey: to play in the post-season.
Hall played on a team that reached the playoffs just once, with New Jersey in 2017-18, and that lasted just five games.
The Coyotes lead Vegas by a point in the Pacific Division heading into Wednesday night’s game and don’t appear to be a team that’s going to fall off very far.
“There’s definitely a sense of guys know their role,” Hall said. “Guys are comfortable in their own skin in the room and on the ice, and that’s a really good situation to come into as a player like myself.”
The trade was a pretty good fit for the Coyotes, too.