Heading into a very strange offseason due to COVID-19 and the late end to the 2019-2020 NHL season, free agent frenzy was certainly a bit different than many we’ve seen before on past July 1sts.
The NHL salary cap was not raised due to the pandemic, leaving many teams to scramble to dump cap room to be able to sign players they could really use. Some of the top free agents like Alex Pietrangelo, T.J. Brodie and Torey Krug all joined teams that had to find some way to free up the money to sign them; however, there was one free agent who was the big name prize of the offseason that went a different route.
Taylor Hall was the first overall pick in the 2010 NHL entry draft when the Edmonton Oilers selected him. Taylor Hall played six seasons in Edmonton before he was traded to the New Jersey Devils in one of the more puzzling trades in recent NHL history.
In his second season with the Devils, he scored 93 points in 76 games, helping the Devils make the playoffs for the first time since 2012 en route to winning the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s MVP.
Despite Hall’s production, the Devils struggled after they made the playoffs and traded him to the Coyotes this past season due to his expiring contract. The Devils upset the Predators in their qualifying round matchup before losing in the first round to the Colorado Avalanche in five games.
With an odd offseason that prevents players from having the normal amount of time to meet in person with teams to make your free agency decision, Taylor Hall has opted to go a different route and put himself on a one year deal with the Buffalo Sabres. There’s many reasons this move can pay off for both the Sabres and for Hall.
The biggest reason to expect this to be a great move for Taylor Hall is because of one man. Jack Eichel. The Sabres captain has catapulted himself into the conversation of being a top 10 player in the NHL, and he is an excellent centerman for Hall to play on a line with.
Because Taylor Hall only had one year of playing with Connor McDavid, which was his rookie year in which he only played 45 games, Jack Eichel is by far the best linemate Taylor Hall will have ever played with in his career. In a year where Taylor Hall will more than likely attempt to play well for the most amount of money, having Jack Eichel next to him to aid him through that is an outstanding strategy.
For the Buffalo Sabres, it’s good for one obvious reason: Taylor Hall is a very good player. Despite the current cap situation looming over the Buffalo Sabres, having a good player like Taylor Hall can help the team establish a better culture under new general manager Kevyn Adams, and most importantly it can help the Sabres get one step closer to ending their nine-year long postseason drought.
If the Sabres can find success with Taylor Hall, he can command a lot of money next offseason. However, if the Sabres are willing to move other players to free up cap for the future, why wouldn’t Taylor Hall return to Buffalo if his year goes well? What elite player wouldn’t want to play with Jack Eichel?
The answer is not many, and for the Buffalo Sabres, it is a great signing. The clock has started; however, and over the next year, it is now on the Sabres to try and convince Taylor Hall what the Devils and Coyotes couldn’t: re-sign with them.