North Dakota defenseman David Hale became the second WCHA player to forego his senior season and turn pro, signing with the New Jersey Devils this week. Hale joins Peter Sejna, the Hobey Baker finalist who signed a free-agent deal with the St. Louis Blues. Hale was a first-round draft pick of New Jersey in the 2000 NHL entry draft.
Hale signed a three-year contract. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“Apparently they gave him more money than they have ever given a first-round pick,” North Dakota coach Dean Blais said to the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald. “That kind of surprises me, considering he missed almost half the year with us with illness. They must have really wanted him.”
Hale suffers from a kidney disorder known as Iga nephropathy, for which there is no known cure. Hale was also hospitalized for a serious illness this January while the Fighting Sioux were on a road trip in Hale’s hometown of Colorado Springs, Colo. It is not known if the two matters were related.
Hale missed two months this season, before returning for North Dakota’s NCAA regional loss to Ferris State.
“I was mentally prepared for David to leave here after three years,” Blais said to the Herald, “because I thought he’d be ready for the NHL then. After he became ill, I thought he might return here, because I wasn’t sure if New Jersey wanted him if he wasn’t 100 percent healthy. But he appears to have gained back all his weight and strength.”
Hale is expected to join the Devils for the first round of the NHL playoffs, but not play, and then return to North Dakota to finish the semester.