The New Jersey Devils have had a great summer and that’s fantastic news for one of the first stars this current edition added, left winger Taylor Hall. The 2018 Hart Trophy winner was the first major piece in a remixing of the franchise that now includes 2017 first overall pick Nico Hischier and recent additions P.K. Subban via trade and Jack Hughes as the top pick in the 2019 draft. Speaking at the NHLPA’s annual charity golf tournament, Hall reflected on some of those big moves, starting with the Nashville deal that sent Subban to Newark.
“I just talked to him on the phone on Saturday,” Hall said. “You could tell how much excitement he had and how much enthusiasm he brings to his daily life. He’s a great guy; I played with him at the World Championship one year and at a couple of all-star games; he’s been nothing but fun to be around.”
Hall, who was originally acquired from Edmonton in his own blockbuster trade for defenseman Adam Larsson, even got to put in his two cents when GM Ray Shero was putting together the deal with the Predators.
“Ray called me and asked my opinion the night before the trade happened,” Hall said. “I told him it would be a great addition on and off the ice. As a player in the off-season, that’s what you want to see. We’re going to have more than a couple new faces next year and it’s important that we have a good start. And just injecting some new blood into the team will be really good.”
Not only does Subban bring a big personality to the Devils, but he has a couple of specific skills that really fill a need for New Jersey, which missed the playoffs this past season for the sixth time in seven years.
“He’s got such a big shot back there,” Hall said. “And carrying the puck up the ice, he’s unpredictable with his breakouts. Our power play struggled a bit last year; we didn’t have that big point shot that can be a threat and P.K. brings that. Whether he’s on the power play or playing against other teams’ top lines, he’s going to make everybody else’s job on the ice easier.”
It is pretty fun to think about New Jersey’s potential power play unit next year. The Devils ranked just 21st in the league this past season, but now they can trot out Subban and Hughes with Hall and Hischier, if they choose to load up the top entry. While Hughes is coming straight from the draft, Hall has been on the ice with the kid before and was suitably impressed.
“He’s super-skilled,” Hall said. “I think he’s built for how the NHL is played right now, with how fast he is and how effortlessly he glides. And obviously his skill level is second-to-none in his age group. I can’t wait to see what he can do at the NHL level.”
Of course, for Hall to truly enjoy the building being done in New Jersey, he’ll have to stick around long-term. As it is, the left winger will be eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer and he will certainly garner a lot of interest on the open market if he doesn’t re-up with the Devils before that.
While offer sheets have been all the chatter online these days, Hall actually went back to last year’s big contract brouhaha with John Tavares in addressing his own situation.
“You’re starting to see players want to see what’s out there and what the other 30 teams have to offer,” he said. “That’s within our rights and what we fought for in (CBA) negotiations. If you have time, I think it’s wise to take it and make the right decision. John did something that really hadn’t been done before. He made a decision for himself and was definitely aware of the ramifications on Long Island and I think he’s pretty happy about it. There’s definitely a change in the landscape and players have more of a voice.”
Which is not to say that Hall is looking to leave New Jersey. On the contrary, he sounds to be very happy with his hockey home both on and off the ice right now, though getting more tangible team results in the upcoming season seems to be a priority.
“I’ve played nine seasons in the NHL and only won one playoff game,” he said. “I only have so many more years in this league and so many more chances to win a Stanley Cup and I haven’t even come close yet. I kinda want to make up for lost time.”
If the Subban and Hughes acquisitions can make that happen in New Jersey in the coming years, I’m sure Hall will be happy to make his long playoff run while wearing the horned ‘N’ on his chest.