Before I begin, here is a physical representation of my reaction to the trade that sent Taylor Hall out of Edmonton (watch from 0:08 - 0:15)
Like most Oilers fans (and hockey fans for that matter), I was losing it when I first heard this trade. Taylor Hall was personally one of my favorite players on the Oilers, he was one of the players Edmonton SHOULDN'T have traded, and history suggests that Hall would have an incredible career with the Devils. However when I finally came to accept that this trade happened and I started to dig a little bit deeper into it, I realized that the trade wasn't that bad, at least in terms of function. Let me explain.
First off, let me say this. This trade is absolutely terrible. They traded away a winger who scored 65 pts this past season (and ranks 3rd among left wingers in points, behind Alex Ovechkin and Jamie Benn) while Larsson has only mustered 69 points in 4 NHL seasons. Now granted, Hall is a high scoring forward and not a low scoring defenceman, but at the end of the day, this trade is just an absolute terrible deal whichever way you look at it.
But while the trade itself is terrible, the functionality of this trade makes sense. According to GeneralFanager.com, the Oilers currently have $13,288,835 in cap space. This figure takes into account the amount of cap freed from Hall's contract, but also the new money Edmonton will be paying Larsson for the next 5 seasons. This means that the Oilers now have the flexibility to extend the contracts of Leon Draisitl, Connor McDavid, Darnell Nurse, and Jesse Puljujarvi, once their ELC (entry level contracts) expire in the next three years (Draisitl's in 2017, McDavid's and Nurse's in 2018, Puljujarvi in 2019).
This trade also helps the Oilers address the defensive woes of the team, both in terms of beefing it up and adding another right handed shot defenceman. The Oilers only had three RHD last year, Clendenning, Fayne, Gryba. With Clendenning not recieving a qualifying sheet and Gryba still yet to be resigned, the Oilers only have 2 official RHD (Fayne and Larsson).
Another thing this trade did was show the fans of Edmonton that
Chiarelli is deadly serious in making this team good again. At the end
of the 2014/2015 season (before the PC was hired), MacT came out and
said that Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle and Yakupov under any
circumstances WERE NOT going to be traded. But with Chiarelli at the
helm, and having had a full year to understand what the Oilers need,
he's doing whatever he can to help the Oilers become a better team. He
even said it himself. "This is the price you have to pay for defence."
This trade was a statement. Chiarelli isn't afraid to trade one of
Edmonton's young players, if it means helping the Oilers out.
Finally this trade, along the $13M cap space, gives Edmonton the chance to sign both Jason Demers and Milan Lucic on July 1st. Recall that both of them were in Edmonton on Tuesday talking to the Oilers management. Both have assests that the Oilers can use to great effect and signing them won't be easy (especially since Milan Lucic would be asking for top-dollar). This means that if the Oilers do sign both Demers and Lucic, they'll basically have traded Taylor Hall for Jason Demers, Adam Larsson, and Milan Lucic.
So yeah, this trade is as lopsided and stupid as stupid and lopsided trades go. The return isn't worth Hall and he's much more valuable to the Oilers than Larsson is, by their numbers alone. However when you really get into it, this trade ultimately makes sense and helps the Oilers to take the next step forward in making the playoffs and ultimately contending for the Stanley Cup. And who knows? Maybe Larsson will work out just fine and Chiarelli would've made a smart move here. But until then, we have no choice but to wait until July 1st and ultimately next season, to see if this trade paid off.
And with that, I bid farewell and good luck to Taylor Hall in New Jersey.