Bruins fans could be forgiven for an inability to shake the thought of Taylor Hall gliding down the left side of Boston’s second line, with he and Jake DeBrusk giving David Krejci the center’s best combination of wingers in over half a decade.
But there was very little chance the Bruins ever were going to land the 28-year-old, though we’ll stop short of saying there was no chance altogether (hey, you never know).
It wouldn’t be the least bit surprising to find out Don Sweeney called Ray Shero to kick the tires on Hall and see what he’d have to pony up in order to bring the 2010 No. 1 overall pick to Boston. Given what the Arizona Coyotes parted with to acquire the winger, we’d imagine any correspondence between Sweeney and Shero was short-lived — especially if ‘Yotes general manager John Chayka had to talk Shero down on the asking price.
In the offseason following the Rick Nash trade to Boston, Sweeney made clear that he really didn’t like the idea of parting with a first-round pick for a rental. There’s a good chance Hall would’ve been a pure rental in Boston, and the Coyotes ended up giving a first-round pick and a conditional third that could turn into a second or first-rounder. Again, it was a steep haul for Hall.
But the asking price alone wasn’t even the biggest barrier: It was cap space.
Assuming the Bruins have Kevan Miller and Zach Senyshyn on long-term injured reserve, the team had about $1.7 million in space to work with. The Devils retained 50 percent of Hall’s cap hit, but the Coyotes still are absorbing about $3 million, which even if pro-rated would be tough to swing. If the Bruins wanted a Hall trade to work without making the Devils retain over half the cap hit, they would’ve had to move a fair amount of money out, which would have been challenging, if not impossible, to do without parting with an important roster mainstay.
If the Bruins wanted to avoid that and ask the Devils to retain even more money, then you could bet they’d have to send more prospects or picks New Jersey’s way. The Coyotes traded two picks and three players, so adding more to that for someone who very well might bolt on July 1? That would be a dangerous move that could damage the long-term hopes of a team that is built to be successful for years. In other words, it flies in the face of what Sweeney has been building for years: long-term sustainability.
The Coyotes have some big contracts that they might’ve tried to move to the Devils. But New Jersey wasn’t under any obligation to take on regrettable deals just to complete a trade, so it’s not as simple as saying the Bruins could have sent some big money to Newark and then have all this cap space. Even if the Devils were amendable to that, it would’ve been another situation where the Bruins would have had to make it worth New Jersey’s while, meaning additional prospects, picks or both would have needed to be attached to the big contract.
From a pure hockey perspective, it’s a no-brainer the Bruins would be interested in Hall, who would’ve given them a downright unstoppable top six. But there simply were too many logistical barriers, and that was true from the moment Hall hit the market to the second the Coyotes acquired him.
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