Drew Stafford

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Devils expecting more from Taylor Hall this season

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Taylor Hall‘s first season with the New Jersey Devils could probably be described as a solid season. In 72 games he scored 20 goals, added 33 assists and posted some pretty good possession numbers. On a per-game average, it was very similar to what he did in his previous two years with the Edmonton Oilers.

Heading into his second season with the team, the Devils are looking for more this time around.

“I expect more and he knows that,” said general manager Ray Shero when the team opened training camp this week, via NHL.com. “We met at the end of the year for a long time and wanted him to understand what it is to become the best player he can be. I think he’s been fantastic this summer and he’s capable of more, but it starts with a lot of different things than what’s happening on the ice in terms of training.”

The Devils acquired Hall last summer in a one-for-one swap involving defenseman Adam Larsson, giving the Devils what should be the type of top-line winger they have been missing since Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk left the organization several years ago. Hall is still only 26 years old and under contract for three more seasons at a reasonable $6 million per year salary cap hit. Given his age and contract status, he can still be a part of the next competitive team in New Jersey as it continues on its rebuild under Shero and coach John Hynes.

They have not qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs since reaching the Stanley Cup Final during the 2011-12 season and are coming off of a 2016-17 season that saw them finish with the fourth-worst record in the league and what was, by a pretty big margin, the worst record in the Eastern Conference.

The team made a lot of moves this summer to get Hall some additional help front. After getting some luck in the draft lottery the Devils selected Nico Hischier with the No. 1 overall pick, then also added Marcus Johansson, Brian Boyle and Drew Stafford. They are also looking for young players like Pavel Zacha and Blake Speers to take big steps forward.

Devils sign Severson for six years, $25 million

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New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero wrapped up a pretty busy offseason on Monday morning with the report that the team has signed restricted free agent defenseman Damon Severson to a six-year contract.

The contract will pay him a total of $25 million.

Following the trade of Adam Larsson to Edmonton last summer, Severson took on a significantly larger role on the Devils’ blue line this season. He became a 20-minute per night play and basically replaced Larsson’s role and production on defense.

He appeared in 80 games for the Devils, averaging more than 20 minutes of ice-time per game, and scoring three goals to go with 28 assists. He is only 23 years old so he should just now be entering the prime of his career for the Devils. The contract might look like a bit of an overpay in the beginning, but if he continues on his current path and takes another step forward this year it should be a fair long-term deal for both Severson and the team.

With Severson’s deal now completed the Devils can enter training camp this week wrapping up a strong offseason that has seen them add Marcus Johansson, Brian Boyle, Drew Stafford, and the top pick in the draft, Nico Hischier.

Now that Severson is signed the top remaining restricted free agents are David Pastrnak (Boston Bruins), Marcus Foligno (Minnesota Wild), Nikita Zadorov (Colorado Avalanche) and Andreas Athanasiou (Detroit Red Wings).

Report: Wild at least discuss homecoming for Matt Cullen

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Mulling retirement at 40, Matt Cullen has the option to come home and still play in the NHL.

The Minnesota native has at least had some discussions with the Wild, according to Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Russo also notes that the Wild have had some talks with Drew Stafford, who would love to stay with the Boston Bruins (but might not have that option).

Cullen appeared in 193 regular-season and five playoff games for the Wild from 2010-11 to 2012-13. From there, he played for the Nashville Predators before raising the Stanley Cup twice with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Even at his advanced age, Cullen could conceivably help the Wild, who might be a little slim down the middle in depth positions.

That said, GM Chuck Fletcher told Russo that he believes younger players could conceivably step into that role. So we’ll see.

While some players are in limbo involuntarily, Cullen is one of those guys who may end up ultimately making the call. It would be tough to top two straight titles, but it also seems like he can still contribute. Remarkably, he managed 31 points for Pittsburgh last season.

Bruins must sort out Pastrnak deal before deciding on Stafford

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Whatever interest the Boston Bruins might have in Drew Stafford, the reality is that they have bigger fish to fry.

The Boston Herald reports that Bruins GM Don Sweeney “remains in contact” with Stafford, but they can’t go forward with a veteran addition until after they know where bigger-ticket items pan out.

To be more precise, Sweeney must figure out how much it will cost to retain RFAs Ryan Spooner and (especially) David Pastrnak. Spooner ranked among the players who filed for salary arbitration, while Pastrnak is the sort of scorer who has made an impact essentially since day one with the Bruins, peaking with a 36-goal, 70-point output in 2016-17.

The Bruins are likely mulling over a “bridge” deal or a longer commitment to Pastrnak, yet either way, it’s a key situation for the franchise’s future.

MORE: No timetable for a Pastrnak deal

As WEEI.com noted back in late June, Stafford made it clear that it’s his “100 percent” preference to return to the Bruins. That said, he also seemed to realize that he might not be the team’s highest priority, even after being a helpful addition at the trade deadline.

“On the business side of things, with the way they work out, I know it’s not always in your control,” Stafford said. “But if there is an offer that they’re willing to deal, they can talk to my agent, because I’d love to be back.”

After struggling to just 13 points in 40 games with Winnipeg, Stafford found a new burst in Boston, generating four goals and eight points in 18 games. The veteran winger also managed two goals during Boston’s six-game series versus Ottawa.

Those aren’t the sort of numbers that will kick down doors for the 31-year-old, but they might just help him land another NHL job, perhaps in his ideal spot.

Unfortunately for Stafford, his options may otherwise be quite limited.

Sweeney says no timetable for Pastrnak contract

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At this point in the offseason the biggest order of business for the Boston Bruins is probably coming to terms with their best young offensive player, David Pastrnak, on a new long-term contract.

On Sunday general manager Don Sweeney said that he has had talks with Pastrnak’s representatives this week but that there is currently no timetable for when a new deal may get done.

Just a little over a month ago Sweeney said that talks were “moving in the right direction.”

The 2016-17 season was a breakout year for Pastrnak, scoring 34 goals and adding 36 assists in 75 games. He was second on the team in both categories, trailing only Brad Marchand.

He is currently a restricted free agent and is almost certainly looking at a long-term contract extension.

Along with working on a contract for Pastrnak, Sweeney said on Sunday that he is still engaged in trade talks and keeping in touch with unrestricted free agent Drew Stafford. Stafford was acquired by the Bruins before the trade deadline this past season and scored four goals and four assists in 18 regular season games. He added two more goals in the Bruins’ first-round playoff loss to the Ottawa Senators.