Taylor Hall

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Convincing Hall to stay is Devil of a task for New Jersey

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After the New Jersey Devils acquired P.K. Subban, Taylor Hall texted Ray Shero a green checkmark.

”Like, ‘Check that box off,”’ Shero said. ”I guess that’s good.”

The Devils have a much longer checklist to complete to convince Hall to re-sign and not leave as a free agent next summer. There is no rush from either side on negotiating an extension for the 2018 NHL MVP, and as much offseason work as Shero has done to improve the roster, the process will likely take into next season for Hall to see if New Jersey is actually a place he wants to be for the long term.

”You want to play on the best team possible, and I’ve played nine seasons in the NHL and only won one playoff game,” Hall said. ”You want to be on a team that’s not only a playoff contender but a Stanley Cup contender every year because I only have so many more years left in this league and so many more chances to win a Stanley Cup. It hasn’t even come close yet. I kind of want to make up for lost time, but at the same time want to be smart with everything that’s going on.”

New Jersey traded for a top-pairing defenseman in Subban, won the draft lottery to select center Jack Hughes first overall and signed winger Wayne Simmonds .

”This is a team that’s (trending) up, getting better and better,” Simmonds said. ”They’ve added some pieces including myself this offseason. Obviously P.K. and Jack Hughes. There’s a lot of young talent. Definitely really excited to be part of it.”

After a disappointing season – Hall missed half of it with a knee injury and New Jersey finished third to last in the league – Shero understood the All-Star winger wanted more talent around him.

”Obviously some of the things that we’ve done prove that we want to improve the hockey team not just for Taylor Hall but for our team,” Shero said. ”My job is to obviously build the best team I can for the short and long term and also when it comes to dealing with players and relationships to sit down with them and explain to them as to what we’re doing and I want them to be aware of it.”

Shero asked Hall what he thought of Subban before making the move to get the 2013 Norris Trophy winner and got a resounding vote of confidence. Even before New Jersey signed Simmonds, Hall gave the Devils’ upgrades a thumbs up.

”I’ve always liked it in New Jersey. That’s never changed,” Hall said. ”I think it adds to the talent level, the skill level of our team, and as a player in the offseason that’s what you want to see. It’s exciting. We’re going to have more than a couple new faces next year. It’s important that we have a good start and all that stuff. Just injecting some new blood into the team is going to be really good.”

No single player is more important to the Devils’ success than Hall, who carried them into the playoffs two seasons ago with 93 points and whose injury derailed any hopes of contending in 2018-19. The 27-year-old who spent his first six NHL seasons in Edmonton doesn’t want to commit until he thinks the mix in New Jersey could be enough to win a championship.

Maybe that’s why Hall talked well before the start of the regular season about the Devils getting off to a hot start. Winning on the ice is more important than winning the offseason when it comes to Hall’s future.

”It’s a big decision for Taylor,” Shero said. ”It’s a big decision for the team here. Both sides need the information to have a real fruitful dialogue that’s meaningful, and that’s been the relationship we’ve had with Taylor since Day One, so that hasn’t changed.”

Subban said the Devils ”have to get (Hall) signed” because he’s a go-to player. Based on the $81.5 million, seven-year contract the cross-river rival New York Rangers just gave winger Artemi Panarin, it’s realistically to think Hall could command $10 million or more a season no matter where he signs.

In-depth negotiations are yet to come, even though money shouldn’t be an impediment to the Devils locking up Hall for the remainder of his prime and more.

”We’re both on the same page and both groups have been on the same page,” Shero said. ”I don’t have the crystal ball as to when or how or what the story will be, but I think we’ll know it when we get to it.”

PHT Morning Skate: Clock ticking on Taylor Hall; How Galchenyuk helps Pens

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Blue Jackets fans will get to know newcomer Gustav Nyquist. (The Cannon)

• Columbus goalie Elvis Merzlikins brings plenty of personality to the crease. (Columbus Dispatch)

Nick Cousins could give the Canadiens a little more offense on their fourth line. (Habs Eyes on the Prize)

• Devils GM Ray Shero won’t let a potential offer sheet change the way he negotiates with Nico Hischier. (NJ.com)

• The Clock is ticking on Taylor Hall and the New Jersey Devils. Will they be able to agree on an extension? (New York Post)

• Giving Mike Sullivan an extension was a wise move for the Pittsburgh Penguins. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

• What can Alex Galchenyuk do help improve the Pittsburgh Penguins? (Pensburgh)

• The St. Louis Blues need Robert Thomas to take another step in his development. (Bleedin Blue)

• You can’t ignore what Nikita Gusev has accomplished in his career. (Sinbin.Vegas)

Timo Meier‘s new contract will help the Sharks with their salary cap. (NBC Sports Bay Area)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Hall ‘really excited’ to play with Subban

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What is it going to take for Taylor Hall to sign a long-term contract extension with the New Jersey Devils? General manager Ray Shero probably doesn’t know for sure, but the moves he made last week certainly don’t hurt.

The Devils selected Jack Hughes first overall in the NHL Entry Draft. The addition of Hughes gives them another young forward option to add to their core which already includes Nico Hischer and Jesper Bratt. On Saturday, Shero also swung a huge trade with Nashville involving defenseman P.K. Subban.

“I’m excited at what’s gone on,” Hall said, per NHL.com. “You want to play on the best team possible. I’ve played nine seasons and only won one playoff game (in 2018 with New Jersey). You want to be on a team that’s not just a playoff team but a Stanley Cup contender every year.

“As I said before, I only have so many years left in this League and so many chances to win a Stanley Cup, it hasn’t even come close yet. So I want to make up for lost time but kind of want to be smart with everything that is going on.”

[MORE: Shero on Subban trade, Hall’s future with Devils]

Hall is an incredibly important part of this roster. When they shocked the NHL by making the playoffs two seasons ago, it was mainly because Hall turned in an M.V.P. season. The 27-year-old had 39 goals and 93 points in 76 games during the 2017-18 campaign.Last season, he was limited to just 33 games so it’s no coincidence the Devils failed to make the playoffs.
If the Devils are going to make it back to the playoffs next season and for many seasons after that, they need to make sure Hall stays happy, healthy and signed. Adding Subban shouldn’t hurt those odds.

“You could tell the excitement that [P.K.] had. He brings so much enthusiasm to his daily life,” Hall said. “He’s a great guy. I played with him at the [IIHF World Championship] one year (2013 with Canada) and at the [NHL] All-Star Game a couple of times. I’m really excited to play with him.”

There’s still time for the Devils to improve their roster even more, as they have over $25 million in cap space. Will Shero use the money at his disposal to add a free agent or two, or will he swing another trade? Whatever moves he makes won’t only improve his team, it could also increase his odds of bringing back Hall.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Ray Shero on Subban trade, Hall’s future with Devils

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VANCOUVER — Ray Shero and David Poile started communicating about P.K. Subban earlier this week and heading into Saturday morning the New Jersey Devils general manager was unsure where things stood.

The Nashville Predators GM has been busy trying to free up cap space to pursue an impact forward while also leaving room to extend defenseman Roman Josi. The Devils’ second round pick (No. 34) was always involved in the discussions, so Shero needed to know one way or the other before Round 2 began.

Poile rang Shero Saturday morning before the teams arrived at Rogers Arena for the second day of the 2019 NHL Draft and asked if he still wanted to go through with the deal. Not long after it was official and Subban became a New Jersey Devil.

“I’ve always been a fan of P.K. Subban from his Belleville days,” said Shero. “Just watching him in the playoffs [with] Pittsburgh and Montreal, he’s a competitor. His legacy, in terms of off ice stuff is well known. But on the ice he’s a competitor and wants to win. I love the fact he’s not won a Cup yet, he’s hungry for that.”

[Predators send P.K. Subban to Devils]

Subban’s contract carries a $9M cap hit and ends after the 2021-22 season. Not too many teams would have been willing to take that on, especially not knowing the 2019-20 salary upper and lower limits. Poile said he was in discussions with four teams, some of which involved salary retention. Ultimately, the Devils had the cap space and Shero used it to his advantage by being able to take on the entire salary.

Taylor Hall’s future

The update on extension talks with Hall is that there is no update. Shero said he told Hall’s agent that he wanted to get through the draft and free agency before they sit down and talk about the forward’s future. 

Neither side is in a rush with Hall under contract through the 2019-20 season. The decision is a big one for both sides and it will require a significant financial commitment from the Devils.

“There’s no promises. But we’re on the same page because I really think it’s important for both us and Taylor,” said Shero. “It’s a huge decision on his part and for the franchise as well. It’s important to me to be able to sit down with Taylor and go over with where we are as a franchise.”

The relationship between Shero and Hall is in a good place. They’re open with one another and the franchise is going to do everything it can to retain him. Shero did speak with Hall before making the Subban trade and the forward was very supportive of the move. Adding Hughes and Subban to the roster will go a long way to helping the Devils bounce back after a playoff-less 2018-19 season.

Of course, Shero likely isn’t done for the off-season. Next up is free agency on July 1, another opportunity to add to a winning weekend.

“We want to improve the franchise,” Shero said. “Of course we want Taylor to stay. He’s under contract for another year. … I think we’re making steps in the right direction. We got really lucky to win the lottery twice now, so we want to take advantage of it. It’s great for New Jersey and our franchise.”

MORE 2019 NHL DRAFT COVERAGE:
Devils take Jack Hughes with No. 1 overall pick
Devils-Rangers rivalry gets boost thanks to Hughes, Kakko
Round 1 draft tracker
Rounds 2-7 draft tracker

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Devils should go bold, and not just to keep Taylor Hall

Winning an NHL Draft Lottery should attach a rocket to your team’s hopes, especially when you land that top overall pick even though you don’t have the best odds.

Yet, Taylor Hall‘s been here plenty of times before, so forgive him for not looking at a draft lottery win as a cure-all. Instead, through his time seeing the Edmonton Oilers, and now the New Jersey Devils, landing unexpected No. 1 overall picks, Hall’s name has been associated more with memes (also: “the trade is one for one”) than with being one of the best wingers in the NHL.

The one-time Hart Trophy winner couldn’t help but lean into the jokes himself after the Devils landed the top pick of the 2019 NHL Draft:

No rush on extension

The Fourth Period’s Dave Pagnotta created a stir with a report that mentioned that “as of now,” Hall isn’t interested in signing a contract extension with the Devils, which he would be able to do by July.

Hall, 27, addressed the rumblings, telling The Athletic’s Arpon Basu (sub required) that he’s confused that it would be such big news that he’s simply not in a rush to sign an extension. Hall’s agent and Devils GM Ray Shero made the same general points about there being no real rush to NHL.com’s Mike Morreale.

“We never really looked at July 1 as a deadline and Ray hasn’t looked at it like that either,” Hall said to Basu.

One key point people emphasized from Pagnotta’s report, either way, is the phrasing “as of now.”

In a way, you almost wonder if a light bulb was going off over Taylor Hall’s head as he watched Kawhi Leonard’s situation play out with the Toronto Raptors. Despite being an excellent scorer and player basically since his first NHL game, Hall’s only been to the playoffs once, and that was thanks to his Herculean Hart season where he dragged the Devils into the 2018-19 postseason. Why shouldn’t Hall wait and see if the Devils can actually contend before signing away his rights to hit the open market? As Hall’s agent Darren Ferris mentioned, some players only get one chance to truly sign the contract they want with the team they want to play for – without the artificial bindings of RFA status, and without the aging curve limiting their demands. Hall deserves to explore his options as much as just about anyone else, so it only makes sense that the Devils would need to be really convincing to lock him up for what would could be the rest of his prime.

Got to be smart to take advantage of being lucky

The thing is … the Devils should be aggressive to improve, even if Hall’s $6M cap hit wasn’t expiring after 2019-20.

While Hall’s Oilers blundered despite winning multiple draft lotteries, the Devils should view Jack Hughes’ or Kaapo Kakko’s rookie deal as a window of sorts. You can compete beyond that potential three-year entry-level contract, but you’ll never enjoy savings like these again with whoever the Devils pick first overall on June 21.

Consider that:

  • The Penguins won their first Stanley Cup of their current era (in 2008-09) when Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal were in the final year of their rookie contracts, and made it to the previous Stanley Cup Final in the last year of Sidney Crosby‘s rookie deal.
  • The Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup of their run (in 2009-10) during the final year of rookie contracts for both Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

The Toronto Maple Leafs could still compete for years thanks to the bounty of talent they’ve accrued, yet the 2018-19 stings a bit extra because it represents the end of those rookie contracts for Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.

So, really, the Devils have two directives to get aggressive during this offseason. First, adding more talent can show Taylor Hall that they’re serious about competing, after Shero’s (wisely) taken the slow-and-steady approach before. Secondly, with Jack Hughes/Kaapo Kakko, the Devils could have a difference-maker on a limited contract for three seasons.

A ton of cap space for Devils

While the Devils have a lot to work on – this post from January lays out big issues for their rebuild, including goaltending – Ray Shero has plenty of ammo to use if he wants to be bold. Which, again, the Devils should be, what with that top overall pick and the need to woo Hall.

As you can see from their Cap Friendly page, the Devils have a ton of cap space to work with, as they have an estimated $35.6M in space with 14 roster spots covered. Will Butcher is really the only truly prominent free agent to deal with, although Devils fans might interject with a Stefan Noesen or two.

Yes, Shero must be cognizant of future decisions. Along with Hall being up after 2019-20, Nico Hischier only has one year remaining on his entry-level contract, Sami Vatanen is also entering a contract year, and Kyle Palmieri‘s bargain $4.65M cap hit expires after 2020-21.

But, for the most part, the Devils boast as close to a clean slate as you can hope for in the modern salary cap era, and now is the time to really start taking advantage.

Trades, free agency … offer sheets?

While the free agent route is fascinating and more straightforward (is Newark close enough to New York for Artemi Panarin?), Shero can also get creative.

The Devils have three second-rounders and two third-rounders to go with their normal choices in the 2019 NHL Draft, so Shero could use those picks to swing trades for roster players or try to move up in the draft.

Maybe just as tantalizingly, the Devils’ bounty of 2019 NHL Draft picks could also make them more comfortable with the idea of forking over picks to go the offer sheet route. What if the Devils presented Hall with the opportunity to play with, say, Hughes/Kaakko, Hischier, and Mitch Marner or Brayden Point in the future?

Admittedly, offer sheets are a “believe it when you see it” proposition in the risk-averse NHL. Still, the Devils are one of the teams that are best situated to make such a move, as they have the cap space, the urgency to improve, and the requisite picks to hand over a challenging offer sheet.

(All About the Jersey’s CJ Turturo has a fantastic deep dive on offer sheets and how they relate to the Devils, which also understandably emphasizes that it’s an unlikely route.)

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Don’t get me wrong; it makes sense that Devils fans might feel a little frightened here. There’s the nightmare scenario where Hall leaves the Devils for nothing, much like what happened with John Tavares and the Devils’ buddies on Long Island.

But, really, this situation should give the Devils another push to be aggressive – and maybe even creative – to get better, fast. Even if Hall isn’t a part of the longer solution, the Devils were gifted with the No. 1 pick, and should take advantage of the significant competitive advantage you can enjoy in competing while key players are on entry-level contracts.

If that aggressiveness impresses Hall enough to stay, then it’s all gravy … or sauce.

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.