Here's a Headline That's Months in the Making: The Clock is Ticking on Taylor Hall's Time in New Jersey as an In-Season Extension Appears Less Likely
Ya know, I was really hoping the stockings would at least be hung by the chimney with care before we were thrown into an inevitable and fatalistic conversation so nauseatingly cyclical that it'll make Devils' fans wish they were instead stuck on a Tilt-a-Whirl while battling pneumonia until the trade deadline. A rough start made it all the more likely that the Taylor Hall trade winds would be quick to blow, but rebounding from said start isn't going to be made any easier by having the rumor mill rigorously rotate around the most impactful player on a ripening roster.
The truth is that no one not intricately involved in the negotiations really knows the truth, because I'm not even sure that the impending free agent in question knows the whole truth at this point. Regardless of the source being more reliable than most, "I think the Devils now know..." is as convenient a qualifier as "It might be the liquor talking...", especially considering the attention-driven platform from which it was all-too-absolutely hear-said.
Of course, what followed wasn't a remotely outlandish assessment. There are a growing number of reasons why a recent league MVP who has sniffed playoff hockey once throughout a professional career that's now going on a decade might want to exercise his right to test his worth to true Cup contenders on the open market. However, if that is indeed as open-and-shut a case as it's being portrayed then there really is no difficult decision to be made.
The Devils quite obviously shouldn't be pushing Taylor Hall out the door, but Ray Shero is far too intelligent to be afraid of letting it hit his best player in the ass(et) if he's already decided his fate lies in free agency. The postseason is still a potential possibility, but with this team - as currently constructed - posing no real threat in it regardless, there should be less consideration given to riding the 9 train to it's bitter, barren end than there is given to letting Miles Wood babysit your children in a house full of expensive China. As much as I wholeheartedly appreciate what Taylor Hall accomplished in dragging the ass of a largely unworthy Devils' team - in a way no other player in a highly successful franchise's history ever has - to a playoff spot two seasons ago, the organization's future is no longer tied by the testicles to his timeline.
That doesn't mean I wouldn't gladly celebrate him signing an 8-year, 84-million dollar extension tomorrow. After all, as a fan who inherently prefers the immediate satisfaction provided by the long-term retention of a star, it is not like it is my cap eventually being crunched by a somewhat shortsighted risk. It does, however, mean that the draft pick, high-end prospect, and flexibility they'd more than likely receive in return for his services might make more sense as complimentary pieces alongside two barely-legal cornerstone centers than a soon-to-be 28-year-old winger with an injury history that is eerily similar to that of another #9 that shall remain nameless.
Aside from bellyaching about boo birds while getting up to speed, Taylor Hall has remained quite far from being anywhere close to the problem right now. The thing is, for approximately 11 million dollars a year, he would damn near need to be the type of cure-all solution he was in 2017-2018. He should definitely want to be paid like him but we have yet to see that same level of player this season, so while it would be the depressing end of a short and polarizing era, Taylor Hall deciding he doesn't want to be in New Jersey for the foreseeable future wouldn't be the end of the world.
Simply put, you can piece together a legitimate argument that, as talented as he is, Taylor Hall won't be worth whatever overpayment the Devils are undoubtedly offering him sooner rather than later. I'm sure most would consider said argument to be an emotional hedge made as a way to combat the psychosis caused by the clock ticking louder and louder towards the harsh reality of an outright rejection. Hell, they'd almost certainly be right...but that doesn't necessarily mean you'd be wrong in thinking that New Jersey might actually be dodging a bullet in pulling the trigger on a trade aimed at building around the prime of their 1st overall picks as opposed to shooting themselves in the foot by waiting to be left at the alter with nothing more than dick in hand.