Has the balance of power been altered in the Pacific Division with the acquisition of Taylor Hall by the Arizona Coyotes on Monday? Hall, the NHL MVP in 2018, was acquired in a trade with the New Jersey Devils for a package that included three prospects and two draft picks. He is considered one of the best left wings in the NHL but is he good enough to keep Arizona at the top of a loaded division. We asked three of our staff writers which team will win the Pacific Division in the wake of the biggest trade so far this season. Here are their thoughts:
Shawn P. Roarke, senior director of editorial
Wow, do I love this trade for Arizona. A game-breaking forward on a team desperate for offense obtained without taking anything away from a roster that has been in and out of first place in the division this season. But is it enough for the Coyotes to win the second division title in their history? I’m not sure that is the case because the division is too deep and there are some very experienced teams hot on their heels. One is the Vegas Golden Knights, who advanced to the Stanley Cup Final two seasons ago and look to be finding their game this season. They remain the class of the Pacific and will be at the top of the heap when all is said and done.
Tim Campbell, staff writer
I also think the Coyotes are improved with the trade, but I don’t see Hall as changing the balance of power. I believe the Coyotes are a playoff team this season, based more on their philosophy to prioritize defending than their offensive abilities. If it’s not Arizona, then who is the team to beat in the Pacific Division. That’s a tough read, but after their recent course correction, I can still see the Calgary Flames repeating their first-place finish. Calgary is balanced and its defense is solid through three pairs. The Golden Knights will have a lot to say about the outcome, and the Edmonton Oilers remain a tough read, stellar on some nights but not so much on others. But I like Calgary’s chances better over the long haul than the Coyotes with Hall.
Amalie Benjamin, staff writer
Coyotes general manager John Chayka said that the question internally was ‘Why not us?’ as his team contemplated making a run at Hall. And he has a point: Why can’t the Coyotes change their fortunes and take a run at a postseason that generally hasn’t been very kind to them? It’s a risk, all in, right now, but it feels like a risk worth taking for a team that’s desperate for some success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Coyotes have been incredibly stingy this season, allowing the second-fewest goals against in the NHL (2.33) behind the Dallas Stars (2.29). Now they have a game-breaking offensive talent to add to a group tied for 24th at 2.64 goals per game. I might be going out on a limb here — which feels strange given that the Coyotes are leading the Pacific — but I think they have what it takes to win the division.
The risk for the Coyotes was minimal — and sensible on top of that. I do think it solidifies them as a playoff-bound team. When you can acquire a player of Hall’s quality by not giving up a single player from your NHL roster, you’d have to look at the trade favorably from Arizona’s standpoint. But I still think there are better teams in the Pacific, and given that was our original discussion point, I’m not yet ready to believe the expected contenders, especially Calgary and Vegas, are going to continue to stumble and meander until the end of the season. The Coyotes have yet to experience hard times this season and it’s a near guarantee that every team will at some point, so applause for their consistency so far, but there’s a long way to go before the balance of power is changed.
The question of which Taylor Hall is going to show up in Arizona is the X-factor here. Hall wasn’t exactly having his best season before the trade, with six goals and 25 points in 30 games, a far cry from the stats he put up in 2017-2018 when he won the Hart Trophy with 93 points (39 goals, 54 assists). But Hall has already paid dividends for the Coyotes, forcing the turnover and making the pass that led to the game-winning goal against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. And that was with Hall rusty and exhausted from the transition and the travel. I think the trade will galvanize Hall, get him engaged again and back to the player he has been. I think it’ll do the same for some of the Coyotes’ young players, so yes, first place is still in play in Arizona.
I don’t know what the future holds for the Coyotes, but I’m interested to see what this move does for forward Phil Kessel, who has not lived up to goal-scoring expectations since his trade to the Coyotes from the Pittsburgh Penguins in the offseason. Can the arrival of Hall and the threat he poses when on his game unlock Kessel’s game in the same way it was unlocked by the presence of game-breaking players in Pittsburgh? If that is the case, watch out. Plus, by having the Devils take on half of Hall’s remaining salary for this season, the Coyotes have the NHL salary cap flexibility to make another impact move, so we may be revisiting this argument before the NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 24.