Taylor Hall‘s top priority is clear as he heads toward unrestricted free agency for the first time in his 10-season NHL career.
“I think, honestly, it’s probably all winning,” the Arizona Coyotes forward said Friday when asked what was most important.
Hall has had individual honors — going No. 1 in the 2010 NHL Draft to the Edmonton Oilers, being voted the Hart Trophy winner as the NHL’s most valuable player in 2017-18 with the New Jersey Devils — but has played only 14 NHL postseason games.
The NHL salary cap also was affected after the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. The cap will stay at $81.5 million for at least the 2020-21 season.
“Any player at this stage in their career that has had the career that I’ve had, 10 seasons, only make the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs twice, that’s really what I’m after,” the 28-year-old said. “So we’ll see what happens there.
“I think the Coyotes have a bright future. They have some great guys, some good young players. When I get around to crossing that bridge and I kind of come to what I want to do, we’ll see.
“But yeah, I’d say it’s pretty much all winning. I don’t think the money’s going to be what it was maybe before COVID or before the season, but that’s fine. I think we get paid a lot of money to play a game, and we’ll see what happens.”
The Coyotes acquired Hall in a trade from the Devils on Dec. 16, 2019, but the general manager who acquired him, John Chayka, is no longer with Arizona after quitting July 26. He was replaced by Steve Sullivan.
“It kind of clouds it a bit,” Hall said. “I think John leaving was unexpected for everyone. I had a good relationship with him. He’s the one that traded for me and obviously had a lot of belief in me, and that was important.
“But we’ll see. A change happens a lot in hockey, and you have to be ready for that stuff. We’ll see what happens. We’ll see how the conversations go with whoever’s having them.”
Hall had 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists) in 35 games for Arizona in the regular season and six points (two goals, four assists) in nine postseason games. The Coyotes, who qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2012, defeated the Nashville Predators 3-1 in a best-of-5 series in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers and lost to the Colorado Avalanche 4-1 in a best-of-7 series in the Western Conference First Round.
The Devils were not part of the NHL Return to Play Plan, a 24-team tournament with 12 Western Conference teams in Edmonton and 12 Eastern Conference teams in Toronto.
“I choose to look at it from a positive,” Hall said. “I got to play in the playoffs, and not only the playoffs but the play-in round. Obviously, that wouldn’t have been possible if I was in New Jersey still. I’m grateful for that opportunity.
“Obviously, getting a chance to spend time in Arizona and to join a new team was really fun. It’s a great group of guys, and I thought the coaching staff was awesome to work with. I look at it from a positive.
“Obviously, it would have been nice to have more success against Colorado, but for me personally, I was able to get some experience that I wouldn’t have had … and I’m grateful for that.”
Hall said he learned a lot during his time with the Coyotes.
“I’d never played in a market like Arizona, like, a hot-weather market, a place that might not be a classic hockey market,” he said. “But they care about hockey there. That was surprising to me, the amount of sellouts that we had, and the fan support was awesome. That’s something that I wouldn’t have known about before coming here.
“And then just the guys. I mean, honestly, the guys in the locker room made me feel so welcome and really was a great team, a team that supports each other, a team that really gets along well off the ice, and those are kind of things that you really don’t have any clue about until you get there. Every team says that they’re close, but the Coyotes was truly a close team and a team that I had a lot of fun playing for, so we’ll see.”
Hall said he would take a few days to let things soak in, then speak to his agent. Like everyone else, he doesn’t even know the exact date free agency will begin because it has yet to be determined.
“To be honest, though, when you’re set to become a free agent, when it’s your first time, you really don’t know what to expect,” he said. “It’s not something that happens every year. I’m trying to look at it from a positive and just enjoy everything that happens, and we’ll see what happens with the Coyotes leading up to it and have conversations with everyone I trust and see what their opinions are.
“But yeah, I don’t know what to expect. It’s a weird offseason for everyone. I’ll try to take it in stride and see what happens.”