The latest on Taylor Hall and Jake Gardiner in today’s NHL rumor mill.
WILL HALL STAY WITH THE DEVILS?
NBC SPORTS: Scott Billeck wonders if the New Jersey Devils’ busy off-season will entice Taylor Hall to stay beyond this season. The 27-year-old left wing is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Billeck cited a June report by The Fourth Period’s David Pagnotta suggesting Hall had no interest in re-signing with the Devils.
Since then, the Devils selected promising center Jack Hughes with the first-overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, traded for superstar defenseman P.K. Subban, signed winger Wayne Simmonds, and dealt for promising forward Nikita Gusev. It remains to be seen, however, if those moves convince Hall to stay.
Billeck also suggested general manager Ray Shero might not be done tinkering. The Devils have roughly $8 million in salary-cap space. Billeck mused over the possibility of signing a UFA such as Pat Maroon or Ben Hutton.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: If Hall decides to test the market next summer, Kurt Leavins pondered the possibility of a return to the Edmonton Oilers. He points out the people who traded him to New Jersey are gone now.
Leavins said Hall always like playing in Edmonton and has heard the sting from the trade is largely behind him. There’s also the allure of playing alongside Connor McDavid. However, the Oilers would have to shed a significant salary to make the dollars fit.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hall’s impending UFA status will hang over him and the Devils throughout this season. The longer he goes unsigned, the more speculation will grow over where he could end up by next July. A healthy season could lead to another MVP-worthy performance, making him perhaps the biggest name in next summer’s free-agent market.
Hall and Shero are playing things cool regarding contract talks. Both sides insist there’s plenty of time to reach a decision. Nevertheless, another poor performance by the Devils could push him into the UFA market. Even if they significantly improve, there’s no guarantee he’ll stay put. The opportunity to earn big bucks and perhaps play for a Cup contender could prove tempting.
As for a Hall reunion with the Oilers, I wouldn’t hold my breath. Sure, it’s possible, but Cap Friendly indicates the Oilers have over $57 million invested in just 10 players for 2020-21. That won’t be enough to sign Hall to a deal worth over $10 million annually. While Hall may have enjoyed playing in Edmonton, I think he’ll look elsewhere if he tests the market.
UPDATE ON JAKE GARDINER
TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons reports former Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner declines to comment about his current status.
“Whatever is happening with the undeclared free agent Jake Gardiner, he’s not saying. He’s not commenting. He won’t even take a question. He did, however, ask how my summer was going when we spoke. So there is that.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gardiner’s ongoing availability in the UFA market sparked speculation he’s got a “handshake agreement” with a club before training camps open in mid-September. Some believe he’s hoping to return to the Leafs once they get Mitch Marner under contract.
That seems like a long shot, though Leafs GM Kyle Dubas has proven capable this summer of freeing up sufficient cap space to address his roster’s needs. Regardless, I expect Gardiner will be under contract with an NHL club before training camp ends.