It appeared the path to signing Taylor Hall had gotten a lot easier this off-season for the New Jersey Devils. ‘Not so fast my friend‘, as Lee Corso of ESPN College Gameday would say. While Hall continues to say the right things, his undertones say another. The Devils have clearly improved, as Hall had wanted, but whether they did enough to keep the star is still unclear.
Breaking Down if there’s enough to make Taylor Hall Stay with the New Jersey Devils
Taylor Hall Remains Patient
Throughout the off-season, Hall has preached patience. He doesn’t want to rush into a new deal with the Devils, as he enters the final year of a seven-year contract he signed with the Edmonton Oilers. His current contract carries a cap hit of $6 million per season and is due for a significant raise.
Having missed the last 47 games of the 2018-19 season due to a knee injury, Hall is out to prove his Hart Trophy-winning season of 2017-18 was no fluke. In 33 games last season, Hall recorded 37 points (11 goals, 26 assists) and is looking to guide the Devils back to the playoffs. While he tries to focus solely on recreating such terrific numbers next season, the looming contract talks will force Hall’s hand soon enough.
“Personally, for me, its something I really I am gonna have to decide pretty soon on what I want to do,” Hall told the Jason Gregor Show on TSN Radio back in July. “I’ve loved my time in Jersey. I have been treated very well by the organization and the area, but that’s a decision I will have to make pretty soon here.”
Since arriving in New Jersey before the start of the 2016-17 season, Hall has made the Devils a much better team. During the 2017-18 season, when Hall won the Hart Trophy as the league MVP, he recorded a career-high 93 points in only 76 games. Thanks to Hall the Devils ended their playoff drought that year as well.
Have the Devils Improved Enough for Taylor Hall?
After a disappointing season last year, Hall made it clear improvements were necessary during the team’s exit interviews in April. The prior off-season the Devils did not make any moves. That was something that made Hall question what the Devils were trying to do.
“I think one thing last summer, we didn’t make hardly any moves and we came with the exact same team basically as the year before,” Hall told the Jason Gregor Show on TSN Radio. “That was a weird feeling to have basically the same team. I think it is always good to have fresh faces in your locker room. Some new guys that can offer different opinions and different ways of playing the game. We have that now. It is exciting and it’s something new to start the season with.”
2019 Off-Season Moves
General manager Ray Shero heard Hall’s comments loud and clear. Shero put together one of the best off-seasons in Devils history. After the lottery balls fell their way, the Devils drafted Jack Hughes with the number one pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. Soon after Shero improved the defense by acquiring P.K. Subban from the Nashville Predators. The Devils then traded for John Hayden from the Chicago Blackhawks.
Once free agency opened, the Devils signed Wayne Simmonds to a one-year contract to add some size to the lineup. As the Devils continued to lock up their restricted free agents, the salary cap was still in their favor. The final piece to the puzzle came when the Devils acquired Nikita Gusev from the Vegas Golden Knights.
But were all these moves enough for Hall to believe this team has improved enough for them to make the playoffs? Hall thinks so.
“Yeah I think that is what it is looking like right now,” Hall added on the show. “I think there are a lot of teams that are in a similar spot as us right now. I think if you look at our team on paper we are battling for a playoff spot. Whether we get in or we are out, it is really up to how well we play and how healthy we stay throughout the season.”
What the Future Holds
As Hall continues to get ready for training camp, the Devils need to have a serious conversation about his future. While Hall continues to say the right things, he uses the past tense when referring to the Devils. When a player is speaking like he is, it is never a good sign.
Now that is not to say Hall will have a change of heart once the season starts. However, Shero and the team need to be an internal clock on Hall. The Devils do not want to go through what the New York Islanders went through when John Tavares was a free agent. If Hall’s future is with the Devils, then he will be signing a contract during the season. On the flip side, if Hall does not see his future with the Devils, then he should tell Shero sooner rather than later. That way the Devils can make plans to move him.
One thing is clear: questions surrounding Hall’s future will be the story of the season if he continues to drag this out.