There had previously been some speculation that Star Wars: The Force Awakens would draw inspiration from the Star Wars Expanded Universe, which is now non-canon thanks to Disney. However, in a press conference for The Force Awakens (via IGN), screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan said that he and J.J. Abrams were actually just inspired by the story possibilities that excited them. When asked if The Force Awakens' story had more to do with the Expanded Universe or the events at the end of Return of the Jedi, here's what Kasdan said:
"I think it had more to do with Jedi and the continuation of 4, 5, and 6. This is 7. We were aware, we were respectful of the canon, but we really wanted to tell a story that interested us and delighted us. We didn't really want any rules and parameters. We said, if we could do anything with this story, what would be the most fun thing to do on this page and the next page and the page after that? That was sort of the guiding principal more than the canon or anything that came before."
From all the amazing footage and news coverage of The Force Awakens that we've seen, it looks like the creative liberties that Abrams and Kasdan have taken with the story will be a positive thing. Still, when you're making a film for a franchise with a huge fan base, deviating at all from the canon (or former canon) will offend some people. Look no further than critics of the Hobbit movies to prove this point, even though (in my opinion) they were still entertaining films.
We'll be able to see how the story in the new Star Wars movie comes together when it releases on December 18, and we'll keep you posted on any new information until then.