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Pondering Taylor Hall’s future with Devils after knee surgery

The New Jersey Devils announced that Taylor Hall underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee this week. This part of the release indicates that he’s not certain to miss the remainder of the 2018-19 season, although it would be surprising if the Devils risked aggravating his issues with no chance of a postseason run:

Hall will begin rehabilitation immediately and will be evaluated regularly by the medical and training staffs throughout the rehabilitative process. Over the next few weeks, a timeline for his return to play will be guided by his progress. Updates on his status will be given when available.

The Athletic’s Corey Masisak notes that Hall’s been hampered for much of this season with the injury, as he had already been forced to miss 31 games.

Obviously, much of this is bad news. Hall’s so explosive that some wanted to nickname him “cannonball,” so it would be a shame if the 27-year-old loses a step or two following knee surgery.

Overall, though, this seems to be the wise decision.

There are plenty of cases where a player will allow an injury to linger before getting surgery. Sometimes those calls are made during the summer, possibly pushing recovery into the next season.

By going under the knife now, Hall increases his chances of beginning the 2019-20 season at full health. With the Devils firmly planted at third-to-last in the East this season, it makes little sense to rush Hall back to action, and New Jersey would only increase its draft lottery odds by losing a lot down the stretch. That’s certainly more likely with the reigning Hart Trophy winner on the shelf.

It’s also worth noting that Hall is scheduled to enter his contract year in 2019-20, seeing his bargain $6 million cap hit expire.

The Devils could sign Hall to an extension as early as this July, but that might be an oversimplification.

After languishing through years of struggles with the Edmonton Oilers, Hall spearheaded that unexpected run to the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, yet the Devils remain in a murky place. GM Ray Shero deserves credit for not overreacting to that surprise run by mortgaging the future, but the bottom line is that he still has a lot of work to do to make the Devils a true contender. Would Hall be willing to wait things out and trust that the Devils can make the right moves? Perhaps the Devils might flinch at possibly going into the $10M+ range with Hall?

A lot hinges on what happens with Hall, and there could be ripple effects through the Devils’ roster.

Sami Vatanen and Nico Hischier will see their contracts expire after 2019-20, too. Kyle Palmieri is a bargain at $4.65M, but that won’t last forever, as his deal ends after 2020-21.

Knowing what the future holds with Hall could illuminate decisions like what to do with Vatanen, and also might push the Devils in certain directions. Their goaltending situation is fraught, but Hall’s likely presence or absence might also influence what kind of resources the Devils would want to invest in improving that situation. If you have a building block like Hall in place, maybe you go bold in seeking Sergei Bobrovsky, or a cheaper veteran. If not, you’re probably looking for cheaper, younger solutions.

It’s all a lot to take in, whichever way Hall leans. The situation would be even tougher to manage if Hall was hobbling through the rest of this season, so it makes sense to hopefully mend his knee, and focus on patching up the future.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.