The Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks agreed to a trade Monday headlined by former MVP Taylor Hall.
Hall and fellow forward Nick Foligno are headed to Chicago in trade for young defensemen Ian Mitchell and Alec Regula, the teams announced.
For the Blackhawks, this is their first big move before the likely selection of Connor Bedard with the first overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, which begins Wednesday night. Bedard is easily the best prospect in the draft, and the Blackhawks won the lottery this year to have him as a critical piece of the puzzle.
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However, Hall is the main piece of this puzzle, as only Foligno’s negotiating rights were moved in this deal. He is set for free agency on July 1 and will turn 36 on Halloween this year.
Hall hasn’t played at the MVP pace he saw with the New Jersey Devils in 2017-18, but he’s still been a solid producer. However, last season, injuries didn’t help his cause, as he only scored 36 points in 61 games. He, too, was moved to the third row under Jim Montgomery last year due to the overwhelming talent on the roster.
Still, at 31, Hall has a lot to offer a team in a more significant capacity.
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Chicago had the third-worst record in the league last season at 26-49-7, which marked the third straight year they haven’t surpassed 30 wins. Of course, this team was a perennial Stanley Cup contender since 2009, when they won it all. They would follow it with Cup victories during the 2012-2013 and 2014-2015 seasons.
However, Chicago has been in a recession since the 2017-2018 season. They’ve made the playoffs just once in the past six years.
The Bruins will miss both forwards, but general manager Don Sweeney has other needs to fill and salary-cap space was limited prior to this trade. Hall’s departure saves the Bruins $6 million in salary cap.
Before making the trade, the Bruins had just over $4 million in cap space.
With Mitchell and Regula, they also have an interesting decision to make: As restricted free agents, Boston can let them walk if they want direct savings this offseason to use for more pressing issues, like signing Tyler Bertuzzi and Dmitry Orlov, two players they traded for at the deadline last season who they loved in the second half.
Mitchell, 24, and Regula, 22, are young prospects who can help the Bruins, but they still see themselves in a championship window even if their captain, Patrice Bergeron, still contemplates his future with the franchise as a free agent.
They already have a solid defensive core with Hampus Lindholm, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Derek Forbort and Matt Grzelcyk on the books for next season. But the NHL has proven to be a league where having too many defenders is always a good problem.
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As the Bruins figure out how they can make a better playoff run next season after their loss to the Florida Panthers, the Blackhawks look positively forward to the Bedard era, in which Hall will be a clear upgrade for forwards at the locker room with him.