BUFFALO -- The New Jersey Devils wouldn't be opposed to moving down in the 2018 NHL Draft if it meant obtaining additional assets, general manager Ray Shero told NHL.com on Saturday.
The Devils hold six picks in the draft, including one (No. 17) in the first three rounds. That's a reversal from the 11 picks they made at the 2017 NHL Draft, including center Nico Hischier with the No. 1 choice after winning the NHL Draft Lottery.
"If you're going to move up, great, but what's the cost to move up?" Shero said. "Hey, we'd love to move down and get more assets, but you're never going to know that until you're on the draft floor and it's coming to your pick."
The Devils finished 10-4-1 in their final 15 regular-season games to clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in six seasons. Despite a five-game loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference First Round, the rebuild appears to be in full swing.
"There were a lot of positives from last season but there's always going to be change to your roster whether you win the Stanley Cup or not," Shero said. "We obviously want to be in position to sign Taylor Hall a year from now and that contract would kick in (2020-21), the same season Hischier becomes a restricted free agent. So we have to be careful what we're doing beyond two years."
Hall can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, 2020.
In an exclusive interview at the 2018 NHL Scouting Combine, Shero provided some answers to a few intriguing questions:
At the end of the 2016-17 season, you had a four-hour discussion with Hall involving his role on the team and how you expected more from him. Did you have any similar discussion with another player on the roster at the end of this season?
"Well, it probably wasn't the type of conversation I had with Taylor, but I had a pretty frank discussion with [goalie Cory Schneider] after the season. I basically have higher expectations for him and so does he. I was real supportive in having this hip surgery done when it was done. Any sort of [ailment] that can take away from him being his best is an issue, but we need better and he knows that. But it's not like I'm mad at him. It's just something needs to change. Whether it's how he trains in the summer or something. When you turn 30-plus years old, guys need to do things differently. Lee Stempniak is a great example. The season before he came to New Jersey (2015-16), he started doing Pilates for the first time in his life, for a year, and he felt he had so much more energy (and played 63 games with the Devils). He had always been in good shape but didn't feel right, so he did something different. Anyway, there's a lot of support for Cory. We all want him to be the best he can be. He's insightful and wants to redeem himself next season. I'm hoping the surgery will provide him every avenue to do that. I thought it was a really good conversation and I think he thinks the same thing. It was really productive and honest back-and-forth dialogue."
Do you have any interest in acquiring free agent forward Ilya Kovalchuk, who can sign with any NHL team?
"I've not reached out to Kovalchuk's representatives and I've not heard from them, so there you go."
Hall had surgery to repair torn ligaments in his left hand, Schneider had surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left hip and Patrick Maroon had surgery to repair a herniated disk in his back. Can you update the status of all three players?
"I talked to (Devils athletic trainer) Kevin Morley last Tuesday and all three are doing well. Kevin saw Cory that day and said he's feeling good. I won't know (if Schneider will be ready for the start of training camp) until we get closer and as we go through the summertime to see how he's doing. I'm happy he had it done; (Nashville Predators) goalie Pekka Rinne had the same surgery done [in 2013] and he's up for the Vezina Trophy this year. He could return sooner or at the tail end of the (five-month) window. It's training camp and not the middle of the season so we're not going to rush it; we want to make sure it heals properly. (Coach) John Hynes was up to see Hall this week and he told me everything is going well. In Hall's case, everything points to him being ready for the start of training camp. Maroon is going to come back to New Jersey on June 11 to make sure everything is going well.
Do you know the type of player you might be targeting with the No. 17 pick?
"I talked to (director of amateur scouting) Paul Castron and (assistant director of amateur scouting) Gates Orlando after all the interviews at the combine. We discussed interests and red flags, and we'll discuss the No. 17 pick over the next few weeks. We'll have certain players in mind, but things change. Everybody wants to move down until they don't want to move down, and you won't find that out until the draft starts. Nobody is moving down before the draft starts. There's a lot of time for that and other teams are doing the same thing with their lists and due diligence. Follow-up interviews are usually scheduled, and testing and reports could impact things too, before the draft. There are players who didn't attend the combine who will be interviewed as well."
Geoff Ward did wonders for New Jersey's power play as an assistant coach the past two seasons. Ward was hired as associate coach by the Calgary Flames on May 31. Do you and Hynes have a replacement in mind?
"I'm happy for Geoff; he had another year on his contract here and we would have loved to have him back. At the same time, he was named associate coach and got a three-year deal. I'm happy for him and his family. For us, this has been ongoing for the last week-to-10 days. Myself and Hynes are talking about it. We'll talk to assistant coach Ryane Clowe, for sure, to remain on board. We really liked what he did in two years and we think he has a really big upside. We've gotten good feedback from players, but at the same time we'll see where he wants to take his career. We're not going to rush it but we'll start that next week, collect their thoughts and see where we are. We have to gauge areas we need to strengthen with Geoff gone. We'll get lots of calls, as we have, but we haven't acted on it yet. We'll see where we go over the next week or two."
The Devils will travel to Bern, Switzerland, to play an exhibition game against Bern on Oct. 1 at PostFinance Arena as part of the 2018 NHL Global Series Challenge. You will then open the 2018-19 regular season against the Edmonton Oilers in Gothenburg, Sweden, on Oct. 6 at the Scandinavium in the 2018 NHL Global Series. How excited are you for these events?
"I was thrilled when we went to Prince Edward Island, Canada, to play the Ottawa Senators as part of 2017 Kraft Hockeyville Canada. It was great exposure for our players and the Devils and now, internationally, it's nice to be recognized like this. I was fortunate (as Pittsburgh Penguins GM) to be a part of that with an exhibition game in Helsinki, Finland, and two regular-season games in Stockholm, Sweden, to begin the season. It was a great experience for the players, and I think it's great for your brand, great for the League. We're really looking forward to it. I was really excited when it was a possibility and am really happy that we were chosen to do it."