Thursday, August 23, 2012

Money well spent, Hall sets the standard for young Oilers

Some may look at the Edmonton Oilers decision to sign Taylor Hall to a 7 year/$42 million contract extension as a bit of an over payment. Not to mention those who feel Jordan Eberle, Ryan-Nugent-Hopkins and possibly even Nail Yakupov, could turn out to be better offensive players than Hall. That being said, there is more to a player's game than just point totals and the former Windsor Spitfire looks as though he will be the engine that makes this ship go.

Which makes yesterday's signing not only a massive step moving forward for this club's long term health but also sets a pecking order of sorts. While Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins and Yakupov will all likely sign similar deals when each has their number come up, you can bet the benchmark for long term extensions within the Edmonton Oilers organization will be the pact Hall just agreed too.

In signing a seven year agreement, the soon to be twenty-one year old, guarantees playing out the first decade of his National Hockey League career in the Alberta capital. When you look at almost every second contract signed by highly regarded youngsters, in recent memory, they all appear to be a bit of an overpayment early on but that is the nature of the beast. That being said, don't be surprised if Hall is worth every penny, come 2013-2014, when the new deal actually kicks in.

At first glance, the deal is in not much different than the six year package that the Carolina Hurricanes Jeff Skinner agreed to earlier this summer. Skinner's extension was worth a total of $34.350M, which works out to cap hit of $5.725 million over the length of the deal. Difference being, the guy driving the bus in Carolina will be Eric Staal, whereas Hall will be taking over that mantle in Edmonton.

The other obvious comparable would be New York Islanders captain  John Tavares, who's $5.5 million/6 year deal kicks in starting in 2012-2013. Very much like Hall, Tavares was a highly touted first overall selection and has cemented himself as the face of the franchise on Long Island...just as Taylor has done during his first two NHL campaigns in Oiler\ silks.

Some may want to argue the fact as to who the "face of" the Oilers franchise is but it would be in vain. Hall is the guy. As mentioned earlier, with the amount of young talent Edmonton has assembled upfront, it would shock no one to see any of the big four lead this team in scoring over the next number of years. However, for anyone that watches this team on a regular basis, it is clear as day who the emotional leader of this club is and will be for years to come.

It is very apparent the "give-a-crap" metres on Eberle, RNH and Hall are very high and none of them seem to be big fans of losing hockey games. Yet, when it comes to having that attitude of "get on my back" and I'll carry us to victory, it is Hall who seems best suited and almost relishes the role. He wants to be that difference maker.

It was evident last year, after Hall came back from an early season shoulder injury. He was not only the best Oiler on a nightly basis but he was more often than not, the best player on either side and gave his team a chance to win, game in game out. Every time he touched the puck, his line was a threat. His game is exactly what an organization would expect they would be getting from a player signing such a lucrative deal and he undoubtedly will become this club's next captain.

By signing for seven years, Taylor did give up a couple of years of free agency but more importantly, sent a clear message to his teammates, that he is in it for the long haul. With Eberle currently in the same boat as his good friend, it would shock no one to see General Manager Steve Tambellini sign him to a similar deal in the coming weeks. Setting the table for the same scenario next summer for Nugent-Hopkins and Yakupov in two years time.

While signing Taylor Hall doesn't guarantee the Edmonton Oilers of once again become a winning franchise, it does make them relevant once more in the hockey world. The kid has always been a winner and winners typically put themselves into situations where they feel they can do just that. With arguably four of the best young players in the world in its stable, this team is headed in the right direction and having a player of Hall's stature sign for the term that he did, tells not only his teammates but the rest of the NHL, all they need to know about playing in Edmonton. It will be about winning, which in the end, is all that really matters.

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