The NHL's 2020 free agent period is months away, but that isn't stopping some pundits from speculating over the future of Taylor Hall. The 27-year-old New Jersey Devils left winger is due to become an unrestricted free agent next July.
Winner of the Hart Trophy in 2018, Hall would be the best player available in next summer's UFA market. As the Devils' franchise player, his contract status is of considerable interest among NHL pundits. Recently, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman was asked if Hall could be traded back to the Edmonton Oilers if the struggling Devils decided to move him. Friedman said he wouldn't be surprised if the Oilers were a big suitor, though he was unsure if they had enough to put together a trade.
In June 2016, the Oilers shipped Hall to the Devils straight up for defenseman Adam Larsson in one of the most lopsided deals in NHL history. Friedman said it was long believed the Oilers could try to bring back Hall if the opportunity arose. But coming up with an enticing trade package for Hall risks depleting the Oilers' depth. Re-signing the winger would also be expensive. He'll likely command around $11-million annually on his next contract.
Reacting to Friedman's comments, Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal felt the Oilers would love to bring Hall back, but doubted they could afford it. He pointed out they already have $12.5-million annually invested in Connor McDavid, $8.5 million in Leon Draisaitl and $6 million in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. CapFriendly indicates the Oilers have more than $57.5 million tied up in just nine players next season. Top-pairing defenseman Darnell Nurse is a restricted free agent next summer with arbitration rights and will seek a significant raise over his current $3.2-million cap hit. Edmonton must also re-sign or replace aging goaltender Mike Smith.
Hall will always be one that got away for the Oilers. The cost of reacquiring and re-signing him, however, is far more than the club can comfortably afford. If the Devils decide to shop Hall before the Feb. 24 trade deadline, a return to Edmonton remains a remote possibility.
CANADIENS SCOUTING VLASIC?
The left side of the Montreal Canadiens blueline remains an area of concern this season. Victor Mete, Brett Kulak and Ben Chiarot currently fill those positions but lack top-four experience and skill.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman believes the Canadiens took a look at Juuso Riikola. The Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman recently saw action in two games as a forward. His limited NHL experience won't help the Habs. Meanwhile, The Athletic's Kevin Kurz observed the Canadiens had heavily scouted the San Jose Sharks. He pointed out they have “a left-shot defenseman who's from Montreal,” referring to long-time Sharks rearguard Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
Canadiens scouts were likely following the Sharks in anticipation of Thursday's matchup between the two clubs. If the Canadiens were scouting Vlasic, however, they probably didn't like what they saw.
The 32-year-old blueliner is struggling this season, with one goal and a minus-10 rating through nine games. Vlasic is also in the second season of an eight-year, $56-million contract with a full no-movement clause. There's no indication the Sharks are peddling him or that he wants out of San Jose. And even if he is on the trade block, his contract will be difficult to move at this time of year.
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