Taylor Hall said he's healthy after having arthroscopic knee surgery in February and is ready to help the New Jersey Devils reap the benefits of a busy offseason. For him, that would mean a return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after a 29th-place finish in the NHL last season.
"We're hoping for a playoff berth this year; I think anything less would be disappointing," Hall told sportsandmoore.com following an on-ice workout at BMO Centre in Bedford, Nova Scotia, where he has been training this week.
The 27-year-old forward, who hasn't played a game since Dec. 23, said he expects to be ready for training camp in September.
"I feel really good," Hall said. "It's been a long process not playing a game for that long. It really takes a toll on you mentally but being back on the ice and being able to play at a at a pretty high intensity, even though it's just the summer, feels really nice. I haven't had any issues with the knee so far since I've been skating, and it's been a really good process, so hopefully that can continue into camp."
Video: Discussing Taylor Hall's return to the ice
Hall was limited to 33 games last season after having fragments removed from his left knee. He had 37 points (11 goals, 26 assists), one season after winning the Hart Trophy as the NHL most valuable player with an NHL career-high 93 points (39 goals, 54 assists) in 76 games in 2017-18, when the Devils made the playoffs for the first time in six seasons.
Acquired in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers for defenseman Adam Larsson on June 29, 2016, Hall has one season remaining on a seven-year, $42 million contract (average annual value $6 million) he signed with the Oilers on Aug. 22, 2012. He can sign an extension of up to eight years with the Devils at any time and could become an unrestricted free agent July 1, 2020.
"Winning the Hart Trophy gave me a lot of confidence but, for me, it's more about the team this year," Hall said. 'Hopefully we can get back to where we were. I think no one wins the Hart Trophy unless the team makes the playoffs and has a successful year. So I'm not really putting any pressure on myself to have another season like that, personally. But as a team, hopefully we get back there."
New Jersey (31-41-10) has been among the most active teams during the offseason. It selected 18-year-old center Jack Hughes with the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft on June 21 and acquired defenseman P.K. Subban in a trade with the Nashville Predators the next day. The Devils also signed forward Wayne Simmonds to a one year, $5 million contract July 1 and acquired forward Nikita Gusev in a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights on July 29.
"A guy like Subban has had a lot of success in the League before," Hall said, "and even though we have a couple of unknowns with Gusev and Hughes, they are highly skilled players who can hopefully make a huge impact on our team.
"Wayne Simmonds is a known commodity and is someone who's looking to bounce back. I've played against him for a long time in the League and know how hard he is to play against. So with those four guys, and hopefully a healthy year for us, we're hoping to do some damage."
Video: 31 in 31: New Jersey Devils 2019-20 season preview
Hall joined Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby and Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon, among others, for on-ice workouts at BMO Centre this week.
"Sometimes in the summer, you're training in one place the whole time like I am in Toronto," Hall said. "It's nice to get a break once in a while and go train somewhere else. These guys have really intense skates, so it's been fun to be here and get in some good work."
NHL.com staff writer Mike G. Morreale contributed to this report