Quick Shifts: Why next big UFA Taylor Hall could be John Tavares 2.0

Kyle Dubas takes questions from the media following the announcement of both Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen signing new deals. Dubas was also asked about the Marner situation ahead of July 1st and what the Maple Leafs will do with Ron Hainsey

A quick mix of the things we gleaned from the week of hockey, serious and less so, and rolling four lines deep.

1. Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.

The best forward on a New York City area hockey team must decide whether to stay with a middling franchise or take his talents to the bidder of his choice on Canada Day.

John Tavares had only won one NHL playoff series when he opted to leave the Islanders in 2018 at age 27.

Taylor Hall, the league MVP a year ago, has only played in one NHL playoff series. He’s 27 now and turns unrestricted in July 2020.

Already, Hall feels time slipping away.

“You want to play on the best team possible, and I’ve played nine seasons in the NHL and only won one playoff game. You want to be on a team that’s not only a playoff contender but a playoff contender every year,” Hall said Thursday at the NHLPA Golf Classic at Glen Abbey in Oakville, Ont.

“I only have so many more years left in this league, and so many more chances to win a Stanley Cup. It hasn’t even come close yet, so I kinda wanna make up for lost time, but at the same time you wanna be smart with everything that’s going on.”

Hall and general manager Ray Shero have yet to engage in contract extension talks. Neither side is in a rush, and the sense is Hall is willing to see how competitive the Devils are in 2019-20.

With the Isles on the bubble, Garth Snow stood pat at the 2018 deadline, and New York missed the playoffs yet again in Tavares’s final season on the Island.

Do the Maple Leafs bed sheets set Twitter ablaze if J.T.’s Islanders rally for a run?

Hall believes the way Tavares handpicked suitors to pitch him on why he’d have the best chance to win with them helped change the UFA mentality.

“That’s in the players’ rights. That’s what we’ve fought for in negotiations and all that,” Hall says. “So if you have time, I think it’s wise to take it and make sure you make the right decisions.

“Definitely, John, he did something that really hasn’t been done before. He made a decision for himself and was definitely aware of the ramifications in Long Island and all that. I think he’s pretty happy about it, so there’s definitely a changing landscape. There’s always going to be different stuff that happens throughout the course of seasons, and you’re starting to see players have a little bit more of a voice.”

Hall’s expectations for the 2019-20 Devils?

“Playoffs. It’s gotta be playoffs,” he says. “If we’re out of the playoffs, it’s a disappointing year.”

Buckle up.


2. At this same golf tournament last summer, I could tell Hall was disappointed that New Jersey subtracted instead of added in 2018’s free agency period.

“I would love to see us add a couple more pieces,” Hall said in ’18, “but at the end of the day, that’s not my job. My job is to come into camp as healthy as possible, as committed as possible.”

Much like Tavares during his time on the Island, Hall is being kept abreast of the franchise’s big picture and has a direct line to Shero.

Shero called Hall to get his take on P.K. Subban last Friday night prior to agreeing to the trade.

“I told him I thought it would be a great addition on and off the ice. I’m really excited to play with him,” Hall said. “With our power play last year, we struggled a little bit [17.7 per cent, 21st overall]. We didn’t really have the big point shot that can be a threat, and I think P.K.’s going to bring that. So, whether he’s playing on the power play or he’s playing against the other teams’ top lines, he’s going to be a guy that makes everyone else’s job on the ice easier.

“Once Ray called me and put that thought out there, it was nothing but excitement.”

Hall called Subban, a one-time Team Canada teammate, within hours after the paperwork was filed.

Even weeks prior to the draft, Hall had been in communication with the first-overall pick, Jack Hughes, letting the teenage phenom know what to expect from the city and the Devils. Hall saw Hughes again in Toronto Thursday morning and was struck by the kid’s excitement.

“He’s built for the way the NHL is played right now, with how fast he is, how he glides so effortlessly along the ice,” Hall says. “You add a player like P.K., you draft a player like Jack, and whether there’s more upgrades or not, you don’t acquire those players without hoping to be in the playoffs next season.

“Just injecting some new blood into the team is going to be really good.”

3. Hall leads my UFA 2020 all-star squad, but plenty of other names are eligible for a shiny new eight-year contract extension as of Monday. Remember: Last time the calendar struck July 1, the L.A. Kings locked up Drew Doughty, the Sharks extended Evander Kane and Logan Couture, and the Lightning wasted no time inking Ryan McDonagh.

History tells us the price only goes up, so here is our all-extension team for Monday. Lock ’em up ASAP.

Goaltender: Braden Holtby
Defence: Alex Pietrangelo, Roman Josi
Left wing: Taylor Hall
Right wing: Mike Hoffman
Centre: Nicklas Backstrom

4. I was impressed by William Nylander’s poise and confidence Thursday at the NHLPA Golf Classic, as he tried to provide some perspective on the Mitchell Marner contract panic, reminding those with microphones that it’s only the beginning of summer.

“You’ve got a lot more time to go, so there’s no worries,” said Nylander, who has chopped it up with Marner about the experience.

“It’s always a tough process, but in the end it will work out for both sides.”

Nylander spoke about how GM Kyle Dubas’s flying to Europe for a face-to-face meeting with Nylander, cutting through the middleman, was integral to getting the ball rolling.

We wonder if, at some point in negotiations, Dubas will have a sit-down with Marner, sans Darren Ferris.

The best thing that could’ve happened to Nylander following another disappointing Game 7 at TD Garden was flying overseas and rejoining Team Sweden.

In 2018, Nylander led his country to gold with 14 points in 10 games. He outdid himself this past May, putting up 18 points in eight tournament games.

“The worlds is obviously how I play hockey,” he said. “That’s the way I’m going to play.”

Asked if he’ll draw on his abbreviated and underwhelming 2018-19 NHL performance (seven goals in 54 games) for motivation come October, Nylander grinned.

“It’s already behind me,” he said. “It’s gone.”

Swagger = back.

Former Leaf Dominic Moore, who played 11 games for the Zurich Lions this past season, was Nylander’s cart partner at the PA golf tournament.

Moore is bringing back his awesome Smashfest charity ping-pong party for an eighth straight summer July 25.

Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele will be among the NHLers participating.

5. If Scheifele treats amateur ping-pong players (ping-pongists?) half as seriously as he does the children who attend his KidSport hockey camp, keep your head up.

Anyone else see that Scheifele clip and immediately think of this Peyton Manning sketch?

6. Buffalo’s Jason Botterill took an L on the Ryan O’Reilly trade, but he’s quietly killing it with the acquisition of young, right-handed defencemen, securing Brandon Montour from Anaheim and Colin Miller from Vegas within about four months, taking advantage of cap-strapped Pacific clubs.

Nice work.

The Sabres now have five RDs on their roster. You have to believe Rasmus Ristolainen, 24, is available on the summer trade market now.

7. The earliest fans can hope to see a true international best-on-best hockey tournament is February 2021, according to NHLPA chief Donald Fehr — who was wearing a 2016 World Cup of Hockey golf shirt when he said this Thursday.

Another window would present itself in September of 2021.

Failing that, we’re looking at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.

This is dependent, of course, on the next round of CBA negotiations, which are only at the stage of informal yet “helpful” discussions, per Fehr.

8. It’s going to look weird, but it’s starting to feel real that Joe Pavelski could be skating next season in a sweater other than teal.

Extending his captain wasn’t the priority last Canada Day, when Sharks GM Doug Wilson instead locked up Kane and Couture. Pavelski’s file still wasn’t front and centre once San Jose was eliminated in the conference final. That would be Erik Karlsson’s.

Pursuers Pavelski has reportedly declined include Columbus and Arizona, partly because he doesn’t believe they’re close enough to hoisting that shiny silver thing.

Dallas and Tampa appear to be front-runners at this point.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen. Pavs is a tremendous hockey player and a tremendous leader,” Couture said at the NHLPA Golf Classic on Thursday. “Who knows what will happen. We hope he is back. I’m sure Doug is going to do whatever he can to bring him back, but we’ll see.”

This feels a little similar to Daniel Alfredsson finally leaving Ottawa or Patrick Marleau saying goodbye to San Jose.

It’s just business, of course — Wilson must keep RFAs Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc in the fold, and UFA Joe Thornton wants to play until age Jagr — but I can’t see how Pavelski’s pride won’t be hurt by how this might play out. Especially after the captain did all he could to return from eight head staples in the playoffs and racked up 38 goals in the regular season.

“There’s not many players that come to play in San Jose who end up wanting to leave,” said Couture, considering how Silicon Valley (and $92 million) won over Karlsson. “That speaks volumes about the culture that is there. You play in San Jose and you fall in love with it.”

Prior to Marleau’s departure, his locker was positioned next to Couture’s and the former teammates have stayed in touch via text.

A UFA all over again, thanks to Friday’s Carolina buyout, Marleau’s preference is a Sharks encore.

“I loved my time playing with Patty, getting the opportunity to sit beside him in the room for many years and learned so much from him, just how to be a professional,” Couture said. “I definitely wouldn’t be the player I am today having learned a lot from him. So if he comes back, he’ll only help us.”

9. Couture may spend the duration of the NBA season in the Golden State, but the Ontario-born star and all-around sports nut proudly represents for his Toronto Blue Jays and Toronto Raptors… even against his adopted hometown Warriors.

“After they won each game, when I was still in San Jose for a bit, I would wear Raptors T-shirts to the grocery store,” Couture says. “A lot of people who knew who I was were not happy with me.”

10. We have the flight itineraries for Pavelski and Bobrovsky. We know which honky-tonks Matt Duchene visited in Nashville and which Russian restaurants Artemi Panarin dined at in Brooklyn.

But where in the world is Jake Gardiner, the best offensive defenceman on the market?

Dale Tallon is prepared to spend like it’s his best friend’s bachelor party in Vegas, so I’d be shocked if the Panthers have made a pitch.

Gardiner is from Minnesota and spends his summers training there, so a meeting with Paul Fenton would make sense.

Vancouver should be interested, but is the feeling mutual?

And there are probably a couple teams were not seeing.

I submit the Red Wings. Steve Yzerman might want to make a statement with his new/old club, and Detroit has one defenceman signed beyond 2019-20, Danny DeKeyser.

The Wings traded Nick Jensen. Niklas Kronwall is a 38-year-old UFA. Jonathan Ericsson, Trevor Daley and Mike Green will all be 34 or older by mid-October.

Gardiner makes them younger, faster and more mobile.

11. Here’s a fun little leftover from our first meeting with the Maple Leafs’ first 2019 draft pick, Nick Robertson — one heck of an interviewee for a 17-year-old. (Typically, the Leafs put their development campers through a media training course. I hope Robertson skipped it.)

I asked Robertson what he does for fun away from the game, and he started gushing about his twin black Labrador retrievers, Cody and Cassie.

“I love them so much, I bring them everywhere with me — in the pool when I’m not supposed to. It’s funny. Back home there’s a bear that always walks around, so I hang out with him sometimes.”

“Whoa, whoa,” I interrupted. “Did you just say you hang out with a wild bear?”

Yep. In the off-season, Robertson lives near the hills in California, so bear cubs will wander down to check out the humans. The prospect was recently filling up his car with gas, and five feet away a cute bear was checking him out.

“You kinda wanna pet it,” said Robertson, before checking himself. “But it’s too scary.”

12. I think hockey is better with John Tortorella in it. I know hockey is better with Roberto Luongo in it. (Hey, maybe I just love Italians?)

But Torts’ decision to start Canucks backup Eddie Lack over Luongo at the 2014 Heritage Classic was a misread — to the point Lack feels regret more than five years after the fact.

“I was young and didn’t realize what it meant to Luongo until I saw him on the ice with his kids,” Lack told Vancouver’s Sportsnet 650 Thursday, Luongo’s retirement fresh.

“I was so focused on just getting the win at the time, but looking back at it now, I wish I had called in sick or something.”

At the time, Luongo said there was no disguising his desire to play an outdoor game in Van.

“I mean, that goes without saying, and if I would have played I probably would maybe still be here,” he said in Vancouver. “Who knows?”

The winter weather is nicer in Parkdale, though…

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