The New Jersey Devils will be officially eliminated from the playoff race soon enough, and that’ll leave Taylor Hall’s National Hockey League post-season games played total at zero.
He has seven NHL seasons under his belt, but he never saw any playoff action with the Oilers and that trend is continuing one year into his tenure with the Devils.
“It’s tough. I’d love to be in a playoff race,” Hall said Thursday in Toronto, via ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun. “I don’t even think I’ve played meaningful games in the last 10 games of the season at any point in my career. To say that it is tough, yeah, for sure. But what am I going to do? I still have to come out and produce, I still have to come out and play well. One thing I learned last year during the stretch, even though we were in 26th-27th place, [is] a lot of people are watching. There are still a lot of eyes on you. Even though our team here isn’t going to make the playoffs, there’s still a lot of room for individual and team success as we get down the road here.
“Hopefully, next year we can really make a step,” he added. “I just want to be on a good team. The area in Jersey is great, and there’s great guys in this room, but I just want to be on a great team, a playoff team that has a chance to win a Cup here pretty soon.”
444 career regular season games.
Zero playoff tilts.
“It’s not easy on him, there’s no question about that,” said hockey Insider Elliotte Friedman during a Friday morning discussion on Toronto’s Sportsnet 590. “And you got the sense yesterday listening to him… he’s trying to be positive, but it’s not easy. I think when you’re a competitor of any kind, it comes down to this – if you’re a pro, and you really care, losing sucks. Losing just sucks.
“New Jersey had a really nice year last year. They had a bit of a surprise. This year they took a step back.
“Yes, I think it’s hard to lose. I think it’s doubly-hard in Hall’s case because he looks and sees his former team and they’re going to the playoffs. I think it’s even normal, even if it’s not your fault, to sit there and say, ‘Is this somehow my fault? Is it me? Am I the problem here?’
“So I understand how that happens to a guy. I think the one thing – if you ask everybody about Jersey, the biggest issue there is they just don’t have a defense that can move the puck. And you can’t win in this league now if your defense can’t do that.
“I don’t know if Kevin Shattenkirk is going to go there – I still think he wants to be a Ranger. But I could see them throwing a big number at him. They’ve got a lot of cap room. They’ve got a spot for him on their blueline. He’s exactly what they need. It would not surprise me in the least if New Jersey is a team that goes out there and just throws bags of money at him and says, ‘Turn us down.’”
Shattenkirk has six assists in 10 games since joining the Washington Capitals via trade from the St. Louis Blues.
His offensive prowess is well-known, but Shattenkirk’s former coach shared his thoughts on a less-heralded element of the reardguard’s game.
“Shatty is one of the best defensemen defending by attacking the rush,” Ken Hitchcock told ESPN’s Scott Burnside via text message. “He has great anticipation and surprises people and creates a lot of turnovers because of it. … He is at his most dangerous when the game is tied or down a goal. He knows how to play reckless and is a dangerous offensive player because of that.
“He was a great team player in the room, almost like another coach,” the veteran coach and Stanley Cup winner added. “He knows what went right and wrong before the coaches get in the room.”
Shattenkirk is nearing the end of his four-year, $17 million contract.
The 28-year-old defenseman will command a pretty penny on the open market this summer, given both his skill-set and the dearth of quality blueliners available across the league.
How much might that contract total though?
In a February 23 report, Bob McKenzie specified three occasions dating back to last summer where there had been “deals consummated or conditionally consummated with the St. Louis Blues for Kevin Shattenkirk if he signed a long-term extension. But in each of those three instances, Shattenkirk was not able to come to an agreement. And the one most recently, in the last month or so, we believe was a seven-year offer, $42 million total, worth $6 million a year.”
McKenzie noted the Edmonton Oilers had been the team in the summer, there had been another team involved in November, and a third team had been in the mix in January.
Elliotte Friedman had reported on the Oilers angle before, and had previously indicated the Coyotes were the second team.
There would be a touch of irony in play were Shattenkirk, as unlikely as it may seem, to actually sign with the Devils since he reportedly vetoed a deal last summer that would have seen him dealt to the Oilers for Hall. Now the two players could potentially end up on the same team.
Anyway, the evening of McKenzie’s Insider Trading segment here it was reported in several locations that the 7 X 6 offer in January had come from the Tampa Bay Lightning, which is something Friedman followed up the next morning, February 24.
“This one it was reported – and I think it’s 100 percent accurate – that Tampa offered him seven years at $6 million per – so seven years, $42 million – and Shattenkirk said no,” indicated Friedman. “There were some people last night who were speculating that Shattenkirk said no because it wasn’t enough. I think it’s because – and I’ve written this and said this – there’s a theory out there that he wants to play for the Rangers. He’s a Connecticut guy. He wants to go back up there. And that the Rangers are his No. 1 choice and the Bruins are his No. 2 choice, with the Rangers really being the team he wants to go to.”
June is already shaping up to be a potentially action-packed month of trades across the league, pre-expansion draft, and Shattenkirk’s Choice could be the top-rated soap opera leading into July 1 free agency.
For reference: Covering the Insiders