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With the long break that comes as a result of a bye week and All-Star Weekend, there's been plenty of time to take a big-picture look at the New Jersey Devils.
That's when I came to a sad realization: Taylor Hall might have played his last meaningful game as a member of the Devils. No, this is not some hot take to stir the pot. It's a legitimate possibility.
Take a look at the standings. You'll notice the Devils are 15 points out of a Wild Card spot and sit tied for last in the NHL with 43 points. Considering their playoff chances even slim would be optimistic. This season is over. And next season is the last Hall is under contract for.
Priority No. 1, 2, and 3 this summer should be re-signing the 2017-18 Hart Trophy winner. I have no doubt it will be. Ray Shero certainly has the money to give Hall everything he'd want and more.
Though they can't technically extend Hall until July 1st, they'll surely have a good idea of his intentions ahead of time. He is a brutally honest guy and is not one to play games.
*If* Hall has cold feet about signing an extension – be it due to a down season for the Devils, playing outside of his home country, or anything else that might bother him – the Devils will have to strongly consider trading their superstar at the draft. They could fetch quite a haul for him; a haul they can't afford to let slip away if this situation is in any way murky.
Last summer the Montreal Canadiens were in a similar situation with Max Pacioretty. They moved the 29-year-old, who was heading into the final year of his contract, to Vegas for Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki (13th overall in 2017), and a 2019 2nd round pick. That's a top-6 forward, elite prospect, and a quality draft pick for a guy who had 104 points in 145 games over two years prior to the trade.
Let's say Hall does not play another game this season. That obviously won't be the case, but let's go with that for the sake of this argument. He'd have recorded 130 points in 109 games during his final two seasons with the Devils. He also led the Devils to a playoff berth and picked up a Hart Trophy along the way.
If a 29-year-old Pacioretty fetched all that, although with an extension in tow, what could a 27-year-old Hall land? A lot.
I'm not advocating trading Hall or forcing him out the door. But if there's any reason for the Devils to believe they won't be able to get his signature, they're going to have to bite the bullet and trade him.
The Devils have a long history of losing high-end players for nothing in free agency. They can't afford to let that happen again.
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