Saturday, 4:45 PM: The Fourth Period’s David Pagnotta reports that the Arizona Coyotes are the lead candidate to acquire Hall with a potential trade coming soon.
Saturday, 9:45 AM: Sportsnet’s Elliott Friedman reports that Hall is expected to be held out of the lineup again tonight, as the Devils ironically face another of his top suitors in the Arizona Coyotes. This should not come as any surprise. If talks had grown serious enough to sit Hall last night, they were not likely to fall apart to the point that the Devils would be comfortable playing him tonight. In all likelihood, Hall has played his final game as a Devil. A trade may not be “imminent”, as the team denied, but it is certainly coming in short time.
Friday: As if there wasn’t rampant Taylor Hall trade speculation already, the New Jersey Devils had to turn the drama up to soap opera levels on Friday night. After taking part in warm-ups, Hall was announced as a late scratch just minutes before puck drop. The team would only state that the decision was due to “precautionary” reasons.
It’s hard to believe that this is health related, as Hall has played in all 30 games with the Devils this season without a hitch. Hall has struggled with injury issues throughout his career, but there has been no report of any lingering injuries of late. Nor has there been a report any incident occurring during warm-ups that could have changed the status quo. This seems to be a team decision made completely independent of Hall’s health.
And who would Hall have been set to square off against tonight? None other than the Colorado Avalanche, the team considered the heavy favorites to land Hall’s services. It’s not as though the Avs need to scout the 2018 Hart Trophy winner. Hall is an established NHL star, scoring at a point-per-game pace or better pace in four of his nine pro seasons, including his 93-point MVP campaign. If Colorado was closing in on a deal for Hall, they would likely rather he sit than risk himself against what could soon be his own teammates.
Of course, that line of thinking is challenged by both teams dismissing the idea that a trade has been made. Devils team officials have made it clear that Hall’s scratch is not related to an impending trade. Meanwhile, sources close to the Avalanche say that the team is not acting as if there is anything in the works. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun believes that the offers for Hall are getting serious enough to warrant his benching, but stops short of saying that any team is close enough to get a deal done. Yet, isn’t it convenient that Hall was a “precautionary” scratch on Friday night against the club considered to be his biggest suitor …