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Let’s dream the impossible dream: the Penguins and Taylor Hall

Could the Pens land the biggest name in the rumor mill?

New Jersey Devils v Pittsburgh Penguins

One of the biggest stories around the league is the ongoing situation in New Jersey playing out with Taylor Hall. Hall, 27, won the MVP in 2017-18 in his last healthy season. His contract is up on July 1st and he has not yet signed a contract extension. The dialogue coming from his camp and Devils GM Ray Shero indicates that talks have been very preliminary, the sides aren’t close to coming to an agreement soon by anyone’s account.

And while it’s early and most believe the Devils will still be patient, the clock is ticking. There’s also the unfortunate matter that NJ has started 2-5-3, only recording seven points in the standings. That’s tied for dead last in the East with Ottawa. When you’re tied with Ottawa, not a great place to be.

Hall hasn’t always seemed the happiest of campers in New Jersey, a team he was traded to and hasn’t been much of a force in the standings. He talked openly of the team needing to add more talent — and they responded by acquiring P.K. Subban, Wayne Simmonds, Nikita Gusev and Jack Hughes. Hall’s frustration bubbled to the surface with a recent quote of, “We’re kind of battling our own fans right now. We were 1-for-3 on the power play and we are getting booed. It’s a tie game that we are getting booed.”

Does that sound like a player considering re-signing in that market with that team?

If you’re Ray Shero you can wait for a while, but not forever. NJ can’t let Hall “John Tavares” them by stringing out negotiations but fail to ever commit. At some point, especially if the Devs can’t climb into the playoff mix and it doesn’t look like Hall is putting pen to paper, a trade will have to be considered.

Shero, as we know is nothing if not bold. If he senses Hall doesn’t really want to be there, will he strike first and maybe make a shake up trade to remove a guy who doesn’t way to be there and add talent?

Interesting, huh?

But, why is this on a Penguins blog? Thanks to their improved salary cap situation, Pittsburgh financially now has the cap space to be in the conversation. They’re carrying over $3 million of cap space, a number that will increase over the season for a player that they could acquire, since the NHL’s salary cap is prorated on a daily basis. Hall’s $6.0 million cap hit is also very reasonable for a star player.

Is it a pipedream for the Pens? Yeah, probably. It doesn’t suit Shero to trade Hall to the Pens, a division foe, unless they give him the best offer. Would Pittsburgh be willing to do that? Will Shero even look to deal Hall? Will some other team swoop in and make a better offer? Tons of plausible, and in fact likely circumstances that probably will happen.

However, the Pens could be in the conversation if they wanted to be. They have the room. And they now have the system built up a bit to have the ammunition to make a trade.

It’s a separate question of course for if Pittsburgh would be willing to give up two or possibly three premiere pieces like a 2020-first round pick, Samuel Poulin, Calen Addison and Nathan Legare. That’s probably what it would take to be in the conversation. Perhaps that and even a young roster player too. Bryan Rust? Tristan Jarry? Zach Aston-Reese? Could all be listed as possibilities from the NJ perspective.

In a way, the Pens conceivably could match the massive trade Shero made for the Pens to get Marian Hossa, when he dealt a future first round pick (2008), a prospect who was a first rounder (Angelo Esposito) and two NHL roster assets (Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen) for the star winger that really helped elevate the franchise to Stanley Cup Final heights. If they’re willing to give up, say Rust, Poulin and the 2020 first rounder, that’s a package in the “decent young NHL player + future first + solid prospect” formula that teams tend to zero in on. Would the Pens pay such a price? Would that offer be the best NJ could get? Obviously huge unknowns at this point all around.

But, from another perspective, the need to boost skill is also there for Pittsburgh. I mean, any time a former MVP who is 27-years old is potentially on the trade block, anyone and everyone should have some level of interest. If the Pens don’t choose to use their space to upgrade the left side defense, the other probable biggest need or area for improvement on the team right now is high-end skilled wingers. The Pens have Jake Guentzel and he certainly qualifies. But other than him? Have to hope for Alex Galchenyuk to shine through, he missed some time with injury but still produced a grand total of 0 goals in October (appearing in only four games).

A few days or weeks ago, the thought of Taylor Hall (who trains with Sidney Crosby at his Colorado summer training camp, btw) being with the Pens would have been very far-fetched. Now, it’s just slightly far-fetched. The team has more motive, opportunity and ability to add Hall as they did for other bold moves like Phil Kessel in 2015 or Derick Brassard in 2018. A team like the Pens doesn’t just sit quietly and wait it out, for better or worse they’re a franchise that will aggressively look to improve when they can.

Obviously that can have varying degrees of success and the question of “should they” becomes more relevant. But you can probably bet a bold general manager like Jim Rutherford is certainly going to stay apprised on how he can improve his team if the Devils ever get to the point where they consider moving Hall.