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Devils look to future after Hall trade to Coyotes

Sending 2017-18 NHL MVP to Arizona 'best for us,' GM says

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Senior Director of Editorial

NEWARK -- The New Jersey Devils are focused on their future after two weeks of turmoil, including the trade of forward Taylor Hall to the Arizona Coyotes on Monday. 

"This was the decision that we made that is what's best for us as to where we are," Devils general manager Ray Shero said Tuesday, less than 24 hours after Hall, the Hart Trophy winner voted as NHL most valuable player in the 2017-18 season, was traded for two minor-league players, a prospect and two draft picks. "I mean, it may have been a harder decision if we were five points or three points out of a playoff spot right now or at the [NHL Trade] Deadline."

The Devils enter their game against the Anaheim Ducks at Prudential Center on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; MSG+, Prime, NHL.TV) with a record 10-17-5, which has them second-to-last in the League. 

 

[RELATED: Devils trade Taylor Hall to Coyotes]

 

"It is always a difficult decision trading someone like Taylor. I'm happy that we can move forward here and count on the guys that we have and not have that hanging over us," Shero said. 

The Devils received forwards Nick Merkley and Nate Schnarr, each of whom will report to Binghamton of the American Hockey League, and defenseman Kevin Bahl, a highly rated prospect playing for Ottawa of the Ontario Hockey League. They also received a first-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft and a conditional third-round pick in 2021 that could become a first-round pick if Arizona wins a round in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs and Hall re-signs with the Coyotes. 

Bahl (6-foot-6, 230 pounds) was selected by the Coyotes in the second round (No. 55) of the 2018 NHL Draft. The 19-year-old has 20 points (five goals, 15 assists) in 20 games for Ottawa of the OHL this season. He was ranked the third-highest Coyotes prospect by NHL.com in the preseason, and will play for Canada in the 2020 World Junior Championship. Merkley (5-10, 194), ranked fourth by NHL.com in the preseason, was selected No. 30 by Arizona in the 2015 NHL Draft. The 22-year-old played one NHL game, on Dec. 19, 2017, and has 31 goals, 58 assists in 109 AHL games over three seasons. Schnarr (6-3, 180), selected in the third round (No. 75) in the 2017 NHL Draft, has nine points (one goal, eight assits) in his first AHL season. 

 

Video: Ken and E.J. break down the Taylor Hall trade

The trade was the latest move in what has been a trying season for the Devils, who went 2-5-4 in their first 11 games and have been unable to gain any traction since. They Devils fired coach John Hynes on Dec. 3, replacing him with Alain Nasreddine. 

Veteran goalie Cory Schneider struggled and was sent to the AHL on Nov. 19. Defenseman P.K Subban, obtained in a trade with the Nashville Predators on June 22, has five points (two goals, three assists) in 32 games and has not had a point in his past 20 games. Forward Wayne Simmonds, signed as an unrestricted free agent July 1, has 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 32 games. 

"Yeah, I mean, it's unfortunate," captain Andy Greene said, specifically referencing the trade of Hall. "It's another chapter that closes and a new one opens up here again now and, you know, it gives some opportunities to some guys here to play and go from there."

The Devils are a younger, less experienced team without the Hall, who is in his 10th NHL season and has 536 points (208 goals, 328 assists) in 592 regular-season games. The 28-year-old, who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, led New Jersey with 25 points (six goals, 19 assists) in 30 games this season while playing 19:11 per game.

"I think as far as an opportunity goes, it's an opportunity for everybody," said forward Kyle Palmieri, who was sitting next to Hall's vacated stall in the dressing room. "Obviously, I think he averages what, 18, 19, 20 minutes a night for us over the last couple years. It's a lot of ice time to for someone to step up and fill. I'm looking forward to being a part of that. 

"And at the same time looking forward to seeing some of the guys seize an opportunity like that."

Players like 18-year-old Jack Hughes, the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, and 20-year-old Nico Hischier, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, will have to shoulder more of the responsibility. 

Hughes has 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 29 games. Hischier, who has 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) in 27 games, is likely the first-line center for the rest of the season and will be looked upon to take more of a leadership role, according to Nasreddine.

Video: NJD@CGY: Hughes makes pretty move for terrific goal

"Nico is growing into that role. And I think I mentioned that last week that I sat down with him and I said this is slowly becoming his team," the coach said. "This guy has to learn, but it is in him as well. He just has to realize that he's a big piece of this team. 

"He's taken a huge step this this year. You look at his demeanor the way he carries himself. I definitely see a change. Does he have more to go, is he there yet? No, I wouldn't say that. At least he is growing into this role."

More changes could be on the horizon for the Devils, who will look to add to the young core it has been developing throughout the past three seasons. 

Defenseman Sami Vatanen, Greene, and Simmonds are among the players who could become unrestricted free agents on July 1 and could be trade targets of other teams. 

Shero said Tuesday that he does not know what he will do with his potential unrestricted free agents or other veteran pieces, but he does believe that the Devils are better situated as far as prospects and assets than they were at any time in the past five seasons and it will be important what is done with that capital as the team tries to accelerate a rebuild that has seen New Jersey make the postseason once in the past seven seasons.

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