Oh, how quickly things can unravel.
There was a lot for Devils fans to look forward to after a miserable 2018-19 campaign. Sure, there was still much for Ray Shero to tinker with.
But after selecting playmaking pivot Jack Hughes with the first pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, trading for P.K. Subban and Nikita Gusev while also adding the likes of Wayne Simmonds via free agency — there was plenty of optimism brewing in Newark, with many setting their sights on a potential wild-card spot in the East.
Well, those playoffs hopes have already been taken down a peg just three weeks into the new campaign. Even with a major injection of talent and a healthy Taylor Hall back in the fold, New Jersey has stumbled out the gate — and that might be putting it lightly.
Toiling near the bottom of the standings with a 2-4-2 record, the Devils have left much to be desired in the early going, showcasing a brutal minus-12 goal differential (30th in NHL) while only cashing in on 6.9% of their power-play opportunities.
This slow start has served as a gut punch, not only to fans expecting a major turnaround, but to the Devils’ front office — as plenty of personnel decisions hang in the balance this winter when it comes to putting out a winning product.
Even if the likes of Hughes and Nico Hischier should be mainstays in Jersey for the foreseeable future, Hall’s tenure going forward is much more murky. Entering the final year of a seven-year, $42 million contract he inked back in 2012 as a member of the Oilers, Hall is setting himself up for a major payday next summer, and could be looking to take his talents elsewhere if the Devils continue to bottom out.
While New Jersey would love to retain the left winger going forward, the writing does seem to be on the wall that if the team continues to struggle, the best course for the franchise would be to deal Hall and snag a strong return for him as it continues to put together its rebuild.
We might still be in the first month of the 2019-20 season, but the trade winds are already starting to pick up over at the Prudential Center in Jersey — with Hall already shaping up to be this year’s Mark Stone out on the open market.
If Hall does become available, you’d be hard-pressed to find a team that wouldn’t be interested in adding a dynamic winger that captured the Hart Trophy in his last full season back in 2017-18.
But after missing out on Stone last February, do the Bruins have the assets/resources to pry a player like Hall out of New Jersey?