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Behind The Numbers

Hall, Larsson fill needs for Devils, Oilers

New Jersey adds needed offense; Edmonton gets defensive upgrade

by Rob Vollman / NHL.com Correspondent

Two perfect trading partners came together Wednesday when the Edmonton Oilers traded high-scoring left wing Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Adam Larsson.

Finishing 30th in the NHL with 182 non-shootout goals and 24.4 shots per game in 2015-16, the Devils needed some scoring. In contrast, the Oilers were 27th in the NHL with 242 goals allowed and tied for 26th with 31.1 shots allowed per game, and needed some help on defense. Both teams came out of the trade with a player whose talents were required urgently.

An Offensive Weapon

New Jersey's leading scorer this season was Kyle Palmieri, who had 57 points in 82 games, which tied him for 57th in the NHL. In Hall, the Devils acquired a player with the potential of being a top-10 scorer, and at age 24 it could be for many seasons to come.

By virtually any metric Hall has been among the best offensive players in the League. At even-strength he has 147 points the past three seasons, which ranks No. 9 in the NHL. During that same time, the Devils' leader in even-strength points was Adam Henrique with 87.

Video: E.J. Hradek breaks down Hall for Larsson trade

One of the League's top playmakers, Hall has set up an estimated 3.3 shots per game over the past three seasons, which ranks No. 10 in the NHL. 

These setup passes are estimated by assuming that the percentage of goals on which a player recorded a primary assist is similar to the percentage of shots that he set up. If this holds true, then his new linemates could experience a significant increase in shots. Add in the 3.3 shots per game that Hall has averaged during his career, which ranks No. 17 among the 810 players to play at least 100 games during the past six seasons, and opposing goalies should be kept far busier in the future.

A Defensive Shield

The arrival of center Connor McDavid and other young, promising forwards allowed Edmonton general manager Peter Chiarelli to exchange a powerful offensive weapon for some desperately needed defensive help.

For the past two seasons Larsson formed the Devils' top defense pairing with veteran Andy Greene. Of defensemen to play more than 15 games the past two seasons, Larsson's offensive zone start percentage of 34.4 was the lowest in the League, and his 3:15 average ice time per game shorthanded is second to Greene's 3:43.

Video: NYR@NJD: Larsson scores on the empty net

In short, Larsson and Greene handled all the tough minutes by killing penalties, taking on top opponents, handling big defensive-zone minutes and serving as the top choice in late, lead-protecting situations. 

The end result was that the Devils ranked eighth in the NHL in penalty killing at 83.0 percent, and they allowed the eighth-fewest goals in the League at 208. Those are the areas where Chiarelli hopes Larsson can help the Oilers.

Added Potential

Even though this fundamentally was a trade that involved exchanging scoring for defense, Hall and Larsson are complete players.

Hall has a clear defensive upside. He may have been deployed offensively in Edmonton, but he took on top opponents and played a responsible two-way game. That fact is best demonstrated by his average ice time of 15:54 per game at even strength, 12th among the 871 forwards to play at least 10 games during the past six seasons.

Video: VAN@EDM: Hall finishes off a great rush to pad lead

Furthermore, Hall's shot-based metrics have been in the League's top five percent throughout his career. Specifically, Edmonton's share of all on-ice shot attempts improved from 45.3 percent without Hall to a competitive 49.5 percent when he was on the ice. That increase of plus-4.2 percent ranked No. 42 among the 810 players to play at least 100 games during the past six seasons.

Similarly, Larsson hasn't been used offensively in New Jersey but could have some upside. His 38 even-strength points the past two seasons is tied for 49th among defensemen, even though he has been used in a strict defensive capacity and on a defense-focused team. With more time on the power play and with Edmonton's high-scoring forwards, Larsson could contribute offensively far more than expected.

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