A trade involving the NHL’s most valuable player from two seasons ago, Taylor Hall seems imminent.

The Devils, visiting the Avalanche on Friday, made Hall a late healthy scratch from their lineup and cited “precautionary” reasons for the decision.

Precautionary scratches are common in the NHL with regards to trades, though typically occur in the week or two leading up to the trade deadline–which is Monday, Feb. 24, 2020 this season. But Hall, a pending unrestricted free agent, is on a Devils team that entered Friday’s contest with 23 points (9-16-5) in 30 games–16 points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Devils General Manager, Ray Shero and Hall’s agent, Darren Ferris have maintained dialogue since September. There was even some optimism prior to the start of the regular season of an extension with the club.

“It sounds like they’re making some traction here,” TSN’s Darren Dreger said on an ‘Insider Trading’ hit on September 23. “He’s loved the way he was treated by the Devils organization. Very professional from start to finish. He likes what Shero has done in the changes to the lineup. It’s one of those situations where it could happen sooner than later. And that’s saying a lot considering he’s in the final year of his contract.”

This was before the Devils started their season, ultimately winning just five of their first 20 games while watching some of Shero’s big offseason acquisitions including P.K. Subban struggle mightily. Meanwhile, the team has continued its woes in net, a constant during Hall’s tenure with New Jersey. This season he saw his teammate, Cory Schneider play his way out of the NHL.

All these circumstances have decidedly changed the way both sides appear to think. The conversations Shero and Ferris had in November while the team visited Alberta, were not deemed particularly negative, but to date, was the last reported time the two sides talked. Since that Western Canada road trip, the Devils have dropped 10 of 14 games.

Hall’s pending free agency has loomed over the team since he entered the year unsigned, but despite this, the winger was quick to point out, following a 4-0 loss at home on Nov. 30 to the Rangers, that he has never asked for a trade from the team. When a post-game scrum resulted in questions regarding the Devils shopping him, he made a point to reiterate that point and was considerably upset with an insinuation that he has asked for a deal.

July 1, 2020 and Hall’s free agent pay-day is coming and the suitors should be many. For the winger who owns just five postseason games, the first line of his checklist is obvious: a true contender. Second, likely a team that is willing to pay him the term and salary similar to what Artemi Panarin netted this summer, signing a seven-year, $81.5 million contract with an average annual value of $11.6 million.

For now, still in 2019, Hall’s next destination appears to be via trade. Who might be the best fit? Perhaps its Friday’s opponent, Colorado. Arizona and St. Louis have been floated around as possible spots as well. Could the Bruins or Predators find a way to make the winger their final piece in their Stanley Cup window? What about former Devils GM, Lou Lamoriello trying to add him to the equation with the Islanders?

That answer could be coming sooner than later.

About The Author

Mad about being born into a Mets household during the Yankees dynasty, Neal McHale turned to something different after the 2000 World Series. He got NHL 2001 as a gift and it helped pioneer a hockey love affair. His first sportswriting gig was covering the historically-gritty Big East Conference. Since 2015, he's been with Inside Hockey covering the NHL.

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