NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The New Jersey Devils finally have a legitimate goal scorer, and this one is coming to New Jersey with a chip on his shoulder after a surprising trade.
The Devils on Wednesday acquired a “slighted” Taylor Hall from the Edmonton Oilers in a straight-up deal for defenseman Adam Larsson.
The surprising move two days before the start of free agency gives the goal-starved Devils an exciting young left wing who was the No. 1 pick overall in 2010, while the Oilers get a solid defenseman who was the No. 4 overall selection in 2011.
An emotional Hall admitted the move caught him off guard after dealing with six losing seasons in Edmonton.
“It’s tough,” the 24-year-old Hall said on a conference call. “I have a pretty deep connection to the city of Edmonton. I felt I did everything I could there so it’s pretty hard not to feel slighted, not to feel a little disappointed with the way everything shook out. That’s hockey.”
What seemed to bother Hall most was that he felt that the trade focused the blame on him for the team’s losing seasons.
Hall said he expressed his disappointment to Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli after being informed of the trade.
“I don’t want to sound like I am not excited to join New Jersey,” Hall said. “That’s not the case. I’m a proud person and I take this as an indictment of me as a hockey player. I don’t think there is any other way to treat it. I think it’s safe to say I am a very motivated player right now.”
At a news conference in Edmonton, Chiarelli said the Oilers have been looking for a top-notch defenseman for months and getting the 23-year-old Larsson required paying a price.
“He moves the puck, he defends well, he can log a lot of minutes — he can play 25, 27, 28 minutes,” Chiarelli said. “He can match up against all of the other top forwards, he has more skill to show also.
“It’s unfortunate in these deals, this is what you have to do, but I felt it was a player that I’ve watched very closely this year and I can see his game trending up and it was time to act on it.”
The trade also gives the Oilers salary-cap space to possibly sign free agent Milan Lucic. Hall was making an average of $6 million annually.
The Devils, who have missed the playoffs the past four seasons, have not had a top-notch goal scorer Zach Parise was lost to free agency in 2012 and Ilya Kovalchuk retired and returned to Russia the following season.
Hall spent his entire six-year career with the Oilers, getting 132 goals and 196 assists in 381 games.
He has led Edmonton in scoring for three of the past four seasons, and has finished in the top three on the squad in each of his six seasons. This past season, he had 26 goals and 39 assists. He represented the Oilers at the All-Star Game.
“I’m an offensive-minded player,” Hall said. “There is no doubt. I love having the puck on my stick and having the puck in the offensive zone.”
Hall believes his best years are ahead of him, and that playing with a team that demands responsibility on both ends of the ice will help his game.
“He plays the game fast,” Devils general manager Ray Shero said. “He adds a lot to our group. He really changes the dynamic of our team and how we are going to play.”
Larsson had three goals and 15 assists, playing in all 82 games on the Devils’ top defensive pairing. The Swede has nine goals and 60 assists in 274 games.
Shero said that trading Larsson leaves a hole in the Devils defense. Vojtech Mozik, Seth Helgeson and Steven Santini are among the young defensemen in the organization that might have a chance at making the NHL roster next season.
Shero expects the Devils to sign defenseman Jon Merrill and forwards Beau Bennett and Devante Smith-Pelley, who did not get qualifying offers earlier this week.
On Tuesday, the Devils made qualifying offers to restricted free agents Kyle Palmieri, Reid Boucher, Jacob Josefson, Sergey Kalinin and minor league defenseman Reece Scarlett.
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