NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three important questions facing the New Jersey Devils.
[Devils 31 IN 31: Season preview | Top prospects | Behind the Numbers | Fantasy breakdown]
1. Will Taylor Hall re-sign?
The 27-year-old left wing can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, 2020, but could sign an extension of up to eight years with the Devils before then.
Part of the reasoning behind the Devils' aggressive offseason, including signing forward Wayne Simmonds and trading for defenseman P.K. Subban and forward Nikita Gusev, was to entice Hall to remain with them beyond this season. However, it's unlikely he will get a contract extension prior to the start of the regular season.
Hall has something to prove after missing the final 47 games last season and having arthroscopic knee surgery in February. He had 37 points (11 goals, 26 assists) in 33 games but hasn't played an NHL game since Dec. 23, 2018.
He won the Hart Trophy voted as the NHL most valuable player after scoring an NHL career-high 93 points (39 goals, 54 assists) in 76 games in 2017-18.
Video: Taylor Hall comes in at No. 15 on the list
2. What impact will Jack Hughes have as a rookie?
The No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft will have an impact because of his skating ability, smarts and work ethic. It won't hurt that he'll likely get an opportunity on the top power-play unit with Subban, Hall and Nico Hischier. He might struggle with face-offs, but he processes information quickly and has executed at every level. The expectation is Hughes will start the season as the No. 2 or No. 3 center and could score 20 goals and 60-plus points.
"Jack's play will determine to us what he can handle and how much," coach John Hynes said. "We're not going to put pressure on him and we're not going to put limits on him right away. We continue to put young players in situations they can handle while also challenging them in the right ways where they can have success but also see how they respond outside their comfort zone."
3. Can Cory Schneider return to form?
The verdict is out on the goalie, who had a better second half last season and had a 2.49 goals-against average and .920 save percentage in six games for the United States at the 2019 IIHF World Championship. Schneider had hip surgery in May 2018 and struggled to find his game. However, after starting last season 0-7-2, Schneider was 6-6-2 with a .927 save percentage in his final 14 games.
The 33-year-old will need to prove he is back from the outset. Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne had similar surgery to Schneider in May 2013 and won 41 games with a 2.18 GAA and .923 save percentage two seasons later.
"When people go through adversity, sometimes you can feel it and it can affect you, but [Schneider's] work ethic never slipped," Hynes said. "I'm really proud of him. Not only for everything he's battled through, but that he's still pushing for more out of himself."
Video: 31 in 31: New Jersey Devils 2019-20 season preview