Fantasy Impact: New Jersey trades superstar winger Taylor Hall along with Blake Speers to Arizona for three prospects and two draft picks.
The Devils get: Prospect winger Nick Merkley has top-six upside but has been hindered…pretty much throughout his career by injuries. He has played more than 45 games in a season just once in the last four years, with injuries hitting him hard in three of those years. But as a former first round pick (30th overall in 2015) and a proven point-per-game player at the junior and AHL levels, the upside is definitely there. Now 22, he's close to NHL-ready and he is probably the prospect forward with the highest upside in New Jersey's system (not currently playing in the NHL). His fantasy prospect profile is here. The Devils also acquired prospect centerman Nate Schnarr (profile here), a third round pick (75th overall in 2017) who really blossomed in the OHL last year, jumping from 39 points in 57 games to a whopping 102 points in 65 games and leading Guelph to the Memorial Cup tournament. His transition to the pro game has been a strong one, posting nine points in 22 games as a rookie so far. The other prospect the team landed is defenseman Kevin Bahl (fantasy prospect profile here), was drafted 55th overall in 2018. He is a hulking 6-6 blue liner with second-pairing upside and was probably key to the deal. New Jersey also gets a first-round draft pick in 2020 as well as a third-round in 2021 that would become a first rounder if Taylor Hall re-signs with Arizona.
The Coyotes get: One of the best offensive forwards in the league right now in Taylor Hall. He won the Hart Trophy in 2018 when he tallied 93 points in 76 games (39 goals). Speers is a 22-year-old former third-round pick (67th overall in 2015) who has thus far struggled with the AHL game. A new system and new organization could get him back on track as a potential checking-line player, but he was included in the deal so that the teams could balance their contracts (teams are allowed 50 contracts at most).
Fantasy Players Impacted: Hall leaves a low-scoring team to join another one. And one with arguably fewer offensively-skilled players. Sure, Phil Kessel is there, but Kessel isn't the same player. Hall has 25 points in 30 games so far and other than early on when he may have the famous "new team adrenalin", I don't see his production jumping upwards. Kessel will be put on Hall's line because Kessel has a long track record of being a high-end performer and the 'Yotes will want to try to coax that out of him. On paper, the person who centers this line stands to benefit the most. At even strength, this has not been Derek Stepan, who has been tried with Kessel the most but has absolutely flopped. The best candidate is probably Christian Dvorak, who has helped Kessel get two of his eight ES points despite only seeing 8% of Kessel's ES ice time with him. Stepan, because of his history and status as an NHL player, may get first crack here, but in the long run my money is on Dvorak.
The Coyotes go with a four-forward PP system (with Oliver Ekman-Larsson as the lone D). Hall obviously takes a spot and Kessel and Clayton Keller are safe with two others. This leaves either Dvorak or Stepan and because Dvorak has been doing much better – Stepan could be knocked off the first unit. The domino effect of that being Carl Soderbeg getting booted off the second unit. The power play becomes much improved, and Ekman-Larsson owners will have cause to celebrate. Perhaps the most?
Over in New Jersey, we've already seen life without Hall because he was scratched the last two games. Jesper Bratt takes his spot on the top line, and Jesper Boqvist sneaks onto the second PP unit. Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri probably enjoy playing with Hall over Bratt, and for good reason. Nick Merkley now has a great opportunity to get a taste of the NHL. "On paper", it would seem that Nikita Gusev will get more ice time now that Hall is gone. But in the two games that Hall was scratched, Gusev barely saw 12 minutes each.
Fantasy Players this helps, in order:
8. Arizona goaltending (more W's)
Fantasy Players this hurts, in order:
3. Sami Vatanen
4. New Jersey goaltending (fewer W's)