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Devils, Oilers each part with key cog to fill need

New Jersey trades right-shot defenseman Larsson to Edmonton to get speedy forward Hall

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

Taylor Hall did not hide his disappointment.

The trade Wednesday that sent the 24-year-old left wing from the Edmonton Oilers to the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Adam Larsson was not one he was expecting.

"You hear rumblings going on throughout the draft and afterwards, but, certainly, when it happens I'm just a little bit shocked," Hall said. "But I'm excited for the challenge, excited to be with a team that wants me there."

Hall, the first player selected in the 2010 NHL Draft, might not have seen this particular trade coming, but looking at it from the outside, it makes perfect sense that this particular deal came together.

The Devils desperately needed scoring help and had a little bit of depth with a good crop of young defensemen in their organization. The Oilers desperately needed help on defense, particularly a right-handed shot, and were well-stocked with young offensive talent.

Devils general manager Ray Shero and Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli began talking about whether there was a trade to be made between them as far back as last summer after each was hired. Talks picked up in earnest prior to the draft in Buffalo last week and resumed Monday before reaching fruition Wednesday afternoon.

Video: E.J. Hradek breaks down Hall for Larsson trade

"When you have the ability and the chance to get a Taylor Hall … he's a guy that I'm not sure if that opportunity will ever come by again," Shero said. "It was a little of a perfect storm with Edmonton with where they are with all their forwards. They have so many good young forwards."

With Finnish right wing Jesse Puljujarvi unexpectedly falling to the Oilers at No. 4 in the draft Friday, they added another talented forward to a group that also includes Connor McDavid (the first pick in the 2015 draft), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Leon Draisaitl. In addition, there have been multiple reports that the Oilers are the favorites to sign left wing Milan Lucic when he hits the unrestricted free agent market at noon ET on Friday.

Signing Lucic, 28, would make Hall even more expendable for the Oilers, particularly with their glaring need on defense.

"In the last four or five months, I've been very public in saying that we're looking for some defensemen," Chiarelli said. "We really have to shore up our defense and we pounded the pavement, and this is the price that you have to pay."

Video: Taylor Hall conference call on heading to the Devils

Chiarelli was rumored to have inquired with the Montreal Canadiens about P.K. Subban, who was traded Wednesday to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber in an exchange of two of the League's top defensemen. Larsson, who was selected fourth in the 2011 draft, has a far lower profile, but as a 23-year-old right-handed defenseman who played in the New Jersey's top pair and ranked second on the Devils with an average of 22:30 of ice time per game, he is a bit of a rare commodity.

Mark Fayne, who played for the Devils from 2010-14, is the only other right-handed defenseman the Oilers have under contract for 2016-17.

"We're getting a really good player back," Chiarelli said. "Adam is [6-foot-3]. I think he's 210 [pounds] now. He's a very smart player, and it took him a little while to get going, but he had a terrific year this past year. He moves the puck, he defends well, he can log a lot of minutes."

With the Oilers ranking 27th in the League at 2.95 goals-against per game and tied for 26th at 31.1 shots-against per game this season, Chiarelli didn't want to wait any longer to upgrade his defense. Some might view giving up Hall as overpaying, but there weren't a lot of top- pair, right-handed defensemen available.

"It's unfortunate that in these deals this is what you have to do, but, this is a player that I watched closely this year and I can see his game trending up, and it was time to act on it," Chiarelli said.

Video: VAN@EDM: Hall finishes off a great rush to pad lead

For the Devils, Hall fills a need among their top six forwards with his speed and scoring ability. He has topped 25 goals three times in his NHL career, including 26 this season. His 65 points this season were his second-highest total behind the 80 he had in 2013-14.

Although Adam Henrique and Kyle Palmieri each scored 30 goals this season, the Devils ranked last in the NHL at 2.22 goals per game and 24.4 shots per game. As Shero acknowledged, the Devils probably haven't had a forward of Hall's caliber since Zach Parise (free agency in 2012) and Ilya Kovalchuk (returned to Russia in 2013) departed.

"He plays the game fast, he goes to the net and he can add a lot to our group," Shero said. "I think he really changes the dynamic of our team and how we're going to play."

Shero admitted, "I'm going to have a hard time replacing Adam Larsson. ... But, to me, the chance to get Taylor Hall made it worth it."

The Devils clearly are getting a player who feels he has something to prove. Stunned by being let go by the Oilers just when he thought they were getting good enough to end their 10-year playoff drought, Hall essentially vowed to make Chiarelli regret the decision.

"I don't want this to sound like I'm not excited to join New Jersey at all. That's not the case," Hall said. "But I'm a proud person and I do take this as an indictment on me as a hockey player. I don't think there's any other way to treat it. I think it's safe to say I'm a very motivated player now."

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