The NHL Trade Deadline is Monday, April 12 at 3 p.m. ET. As we get closer to the deadline we will take a look at some individual players who could be moved by then. We start today with Buffalo Sabres forward Taylor Hall.
Taylor Hall’s decision to sign a one-year contract with the Sabres in free agency was the biggest shock of the NHL offseason.
Here is a star player that had spent almost all of his career playing on bad teams, in his first trip to the open market, reportedly turning down long-term deals to sign with a franchise that had not made the playoffs in nearly a decade and had to play in a loaded division full of potential Stanley Cup contenders.
It was a big gamble all around. The Sabres were gambling that Hall, along with Eric Staal, could help improve their forward depth enough to get back in the playoffs. Hall was presumably gambling that a year next to Jack Eichel could help him boost his value for another run at free agency in a better spending environment. Sometimes when you gamble, you lose. In this case, everybody ended up losing.
The Sabres have the NHL’s worst record and are headed for a 10th consecutive non-playoff season and what will almost certainly be another lengthy rebuild, while Hall is having the worst offseason season of his career which is no doubt impacting his next contract.
[Roundtable: Creating NHL trades, second half predictions]
When asked about his future plans Hall has repeatedly said he has not ruled out anything, including a return to Buffalo. But let’s be honest here: How does that make sense for anyone? If you are Hall, you are going to turn 30 years in November. You have have made the playoffs twice in 11 NHL seasons. Buffalo is not any closer to the playoffs than it was six years ago when its most recent rebuild began. Why sign on for that?
On the other side, if you are Buffalo knowing how many holes you have to fill throughout the roster, why do you want to invest heavily in a 30-year-old winger that has already played his best hockey for somebody else? You already have one massive long-term investment that does not seem to be panning out (Jeff Skinner, and to a lesser extent Kyle Okposo).
Working out a trade here seems to be in the best interest of everybody. The Sabres get future assets, Hall waives his no-trade clause and goes to a contender where maybe his shooting percentage rebounds and he boosts his value, and a contender gets somebody that can help in the short-term. Win, win, win.
What the return might look like
We really do not need to speculate here because we already saw a year ago what pending free agent Hall can bring in a trade. That return is a couple of mid-to-low level prospects, a first-round pick, and a conditional pick. Given that Hall is a year older, has slightly lower numbers, and the trading team will have him for even fewer games it would be hard to imagine the return looking dramatically different this season.
The most logical landing spots: Bruins, Islanders, Maple Leafs
The Bruins have had absolutely no scoring depth beyond their top line, they have the salary cap space to make a bold move, and they have been rumored to be interested in Hall in the past. All of the pieces added up.
New York already needed more scoring depth anyway, and there is an even bigger need for it now that team captain Anders Lee is done for the season.
The Maple Leafs have a great opportunity to actually do something in the playoffs this season without having to encounter Boston or Tampa in the first two rounds like they would in a norma year. They should be favorites in any North Division matchup and they should be all-in on trying to win it all this season. Adding Hall would be an all-in move. Like the Islanders, they would probably need to get creative with the salary cap.
Wild Card team: Avalanche
This is the team I had as a favorite for Hall in the offseason, and even though they do not need him I could see them making a run at it just to add a little more juice to the lineup.
Florida and maybe even Carolina are two other.
Spot I want to see just for fun: Oilers
If the Oilers had been run competently a few years ago we would have seen the Connor McDavid to Hall connection on a regular basis. Ken Holland should correct Peter Chiarelli’s mistake!
NHL Trade Deadline prediction
The Bruins get their scoring help for a mid-level prospect a first-round draft pick.