Out of all the trade rumors and potential free agents out there over the last week, Taylor Hall’s name did not come up in relation to the Sabres.
For a player who’s about to turn 29 years old and hasn’t been on winning teams, it was a giant surprise to many when the news broke on Sunday evening.
The first overall pick from the 2010 draft spent six seasons with the Edmonton Oilers, playing alongside Connor McDavid, but never finding the playoffs. Hall’s biggest season in Edmonton came in 2013-14 when he put up 80 points (27 G, 53 A) in 75 games. He surrounded that by some good years but dealt with a few injuries that kept him out of the lineup.
An eye-popping trade in a 1-for-1 deal with Adam Larsson sent Hall to the New Jersey Devils gave the forward renewed energy. Hall seemed very pleased to get out of Edmonton, and had his best season yet with New Jersey in 2017-18, scoring 93 points (39 G, 54 A) in 76 games. He also got his first taste of the playoffs that season and scored six points in five games.
After a few years in New Jersey, Hall got traded again in 2019-20. This time, to a winning team at the time, the Arizona Coyotes. Hall put up 27 points in 35 games and got into the expanded playoffs, but he never re-signed there.
The Sabres were reportedly one of 10 teams to pitch an offer to Hall on Free Agent Friday. Even with that news, it sounded as if the organization was just going to do their part. Hall easily could’ve gotten a better deal elsewhere, so why choose Buffalo?
In Taylor Hall's career, his team's have finished 22nd, 29th, 15th, 27th, 29th, 28th, 28th, 24th, 29th, 30th.
— Joe DiBiase (@SneakyJoeWGR) October 9, 2020
Well, the biggest reason may have been the $8M dollars the Sabres are paying him. It’s only a one-year deal, but that’s a nice offer that includes a no-trade clause and a $1M signing bonus.
Secondly, Hall finds a perfect spot on the top line and can play alongside Jack Eichel while in a contract year. It’s a low-risk signing that could benefit both parties, and if it doesn’t work out, it was only one season.
Lastly, GM Kevyn Adams said that the Sabres organization sees this as the start of a long-term commitment with Hall, which leaves the door open on a ton of options after this season.
This was the type of move that Adams needed to make. There’s no hiding the fact that Eichel is frustrated. Everybody knows that. This move signals that the Sabres are ready to start winning. It’s difficult to believe that they actually will since they haven’t made the playoffs in almost a decade, but this was a needed message for Eichel specifically.
The organization is at a crucial point where they need to show some sort of progress if they want to keep Eichel around. A carousel of coaching and GM changes along with zero playoffs hopes is going to get to a player at some point, and I think Adams realizes the urgency.
Playoffs are the top goal for the Sabres this coming season, regardless of whether they succeed in them. There needs to be a change of direction and if the organization can prove that they’re trending upwards, they’ll have a lot more good problems.
If they miss the playoffs again, it’s going to get real rough (again). We’re one season away from the Seattle expansion draft, and once Hall’s contract is up, they’ll have a big decision to make with him that will likely be directly correlated with Sam Reinhart’s future in Buffalo.
This Hall signing was much-needed for Buffalo. Hopefully, Adams isn’t done, though. This is a huge start to the offseason and should already have fans more optimistic than the past couple of seasons.