Pending unrestricted free agent Taylor Hall remains the most intriguing trade chip on the board, and a recent report the Devils were gauging a potential return hasn’t quieted chatter. Meanwhile, will Montreal’s recent struggles see the Canadiens make a move?
Taylor Hall|David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
A report from TSN’s Pierre LeBrun that the New Jersey Devils are listening to offers for Taylor Hall set the rumor mill abuzz. Several pundits, including The Hockey News’ Matt Larkin, suggested potential destinations for the 28-year-old left winger.
According to NorthJersey.com’s Abbey Mastracco, Hall hasn’t requested a trade. He declined to discuss his contract status, saying he’s leaving that up to his agent and Devils GM Ray Shero. Shero also confirmed Hall hasn’t asked to be dealt. Shero also denied the former Hart Trophy winner has lost interest in helping the Devils this season. “He hasn’t checked out. He cares. He really does,” said Shero.
While Shero could be gauging Hall’s value in the trade market, NJ.com’s Chris Ryan suggested that doesn’t necessarily mean the winger will be moved before the trade deadline. Nevertheless, he feels the Devils GM will pull the trigger if he gets an offer too good to pass up. Prior to the Devils firing coach John Hynes on Tuesday, Larry Brooks of the New York Post wondered if that move might provide Hall with a reason to re-sign if a new bench boss can reverse the club’s fortunes. With the Devils floundering near the bottom of the standings, the coaching change seems too little and too late.
The Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens and St. Louis Blues feature prominently on most lists of destinations for Hall. Of the four, the Avalanche are the most intriguing. They possess more than $8 million in cap space to absorb Hall’s $6-million cap hit for this season and can afford to re-sign him to a hefty raise. Colorado also has plenty of promising young talent to make a tempting offer to Shero.
The Canadiens also possess plenty of cap space and promising prospects, as well as 12 picks (two in the second round and four in the fourth round) in the 2020 draft. Acquiring Hall, however, won’t address the defensive woes threatening to scuttle the Habs’ playoff hopes.
While the notion of Hall’s return to the Oilers makes for sexy headlines, TSN’s Dustin Nielson and the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson quickly dismissed the idea. They don’t believe GM Ken Holland will mortgage the club’s future for a player they cannot afford to retain after this season. With the Oilers in need of a reliable third-line center, Holland could focus on more affordable trade targets, such as Ottawa Senators center Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
The loss of sniper Vladimir Tarasenko to shoulder surgery explains why the Blues are turning up on these lists. Doug Armstrong could be interested in Hall, but the St. Louis GM is under no pressure to acquire the winger with the Blues riding high in the standings. Armstrong could be content to await Tarasenko’s return or pursue more affordable rental options.
It’s assumed Hall’s trade value will rise if he’s willing to re-sign with whoever acquires him. Recent reports, however, suggest his agent prefers his client wait until the off-season, when he’ll receive the best offers.
WILL CANADIENS MAKE SEASON-SAVING MOVE?
Before the Hall news broke on Saturday, speculation was already brewing over Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin’s plans to reverse his club’s sagging fortunes. With the Habs emerging from an eight-game winless skid, Bergevin could be under pressure to do something.
The Montreal Gazette’s Stu Cowan was curious if Bergevin would use the Canadiens’ cap space and prospect depth to swing a season-saving deal. Failing that, it could be time to consider shopping goaltender Carey Price and defenseman Shea Weber and rebuilding with younger players.
Cowan’s colleague Pat Hickey doesn’t see Price going anywhere. He feels that option disappeared when the goalie inked his eight-year, $80-million contract two years ago. Given Price’s current struggles, he doubts any club would be willing to take on that contract. The same could be said for Weber. While he lacks no-trade protection, his $7.87-million annual cap hit through 2025-26 is a deal-breaker for most clubs. Weber was swapped straight-up for P.K. Subban three years ago, but the Canadiens captain is now 34 and that could make him a riskier acquisition.
Le Journal de Montreal cited NBC Sports Chicago’s Charlie Roumeliotis, who claimed Bergevin was at last week’s game between the Blackhawks and Dallas Stars. He also said the Habs GM took in several games involving the Hawks’ AHL affiliate in Rockford. Perhaps Bergevin was scouting Erik Gustafsson. The Blackhawks rearguard is struggling to match last season’s career-high 60-point pace. He’s an unrestricted free agent in July and might not fit into the Blackhawks’ long-term plans.
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