Truth be told, the best-case scenario for the Arizona Coyotes and the newly acquired Taylor Hall probably doesn’t involve Hall signing a long-term extension and spending the rest of his career in the desert.
What would help both sides of the equation here most is that they both benefit from five or six months of a player who is looking to cash in on unrestricted free agency after the season. The perfect set-up would see Hall light it up for the Coyotes and help them go deep into the playoffs, which would set him up as a more attractive commodity once he becomes a UFA July 1. That way, the Coyotes get the best of Hall without the uncertainty of a seven-year deal for a player entering his declining years and Hall sets himself up best to convince a team to sign him to a big-money deal that would take him well past his 35th birthday.
The Coyotes are saying all the right things about wanting to sign Hall long-term, but at this point, do they really even want to? There was no effort by the Coyotes to make a deal that was contingent upon them signing Hall, the way the Vegas Golden Knights did with Mark Stone last season. They clearly view Hall as a rental, which is why Coyotes GM John Chayka was able to get Hall for a combination of overvalued draft picks and prospects. Chayka also has no intention of negotiating with Hall until after the Coyotes’ season ends, whenever that is.
“We’re certainly rooting for him to have the best possible year,” Chayka said. “My view on the contract is, he’s going to come here, he’s going to experience being a Coyote and living in Arizona, he’s going to experience our staff and what we have as an organization. Culturally, we want to be all about winning and I understand that’s what Taylor’s all about. All he cares about now is being able to win. At the end of the season (we can) sit down, and hopefully there’s an alignment of goals…and he wants to be here for a long time.”
For his part, Hall has said he’s “open to anything,” despite rampant speculation that he’s intent on testing the market July 1. “In talking with John Chayka, I think both sides are comfortable just playing and the contract will sort itself out,” he said.
That said, if the Arizona Coyotes go on a wild ride through the playoffs and win the Stanley Cup, all bets are off for Hall and the team. One of the prices of winning the Stanley Cup is that the team doing so almost always, and without fail, hands out long-term, big-ticket contracts to the veterans who helped them get there. It’s a flawed strategy, but it’s one that’s hard to resist when the glint off the Stanley Cup is obscuring your vision of the future. And make no mistake, in a division that is theirs for the taking, the Coyotes do have visions of being a serious Stanley Cup contender immediately.
“We wouldn’t have had this opportunity without (new Coyotes owner) Alex Meruelo…and if there was any doubt about his desire and commitment to win a Stanley Cup, I think this should certainly answer that,” Chayka said. “We have a great group of veteran guys here who, I would have regretted not giving them the opportunity to play for a Stanley Cup. I look at our group and we’ve got elite goaltending, a very strong defensive corps and we have difference makers up front, so why not us?”
With the deal, the Coyotes have indeed placed themselves firmly among a group of eight-to-10 teams that have a legitimate shot at winning. And in case you haven’t noticed, those kinds of things don’t happen in Arizona very often. For so many years, the Coyotes have been on the other end of these deals, selling off veterans at the trade deadline for futures. In fact, the only reason why Shane Doan ended up retiring as a Coyote is he invoked his no-move clause and wouldn’t allow them to trade him to a contender. If the Coyotes are indeed intent on letting the rest of the league know they are no longer a feeder system for other teams, getting Hall makes that statement emphatically.
“I think we’re changing the narrative here,” Chayka said. “For a long time it was (outside) issues and we were trying to survive. Now I think everyone understands we’re trying to thrive here, we’re trying to be sustainable for the long-term and contend for a Stanley Cup. You can only talk about it so much.”
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