In a move that seemed to surprise almost everyone on Sunday evening, word started spreading that Taylor Hall had made his decision in NHL free agency and had chosen the Buffalo Sabres.
First, Elliotte Friedman broke the news hearing nothing was confirmed and then TSN’s Darren Dreger was more certain about the reports, saying, “Taylor Hall is heading to Buffalo pending final approval. Details to follow.”
Minutes later, insiders started confirming the news. Pierre LeBrun tweeted, “Taylor Hall via text message confirms he’s signed a one year deal worth $8 M with the Buffalo Sabres.” Dreger reports that it includes a $1 million signing bonus and $7 million in salary for the season.
The deal sounds odd at first, simply because the Buffalo Sabres are anything but contenders. When you look at it closer, there’s some reasons this makes sense.
First, the Sabres have Jack Eichel and there’s every reason to believe that Hall getting the opportunity to play with Eichel was a massive factor in his decision. Not every team had the center to brag about and the money to make the deal work.
Second, there’s the coach. Hall is on record having said that he is a huge fan of Ralph Krueger. In an previous interview he’d said if he were to ever coach one day, he’d want to coach like Krueger simply based on his style and the way he deals with players. There’s also a track record with Krueger that he has an ability to sell you on his vision and make you want to sign. No doubt, the coach probably had a long chat with Hall. Krueger said after the deal, “We are extremely pleased and proud that he picked the Sabres! The level of trust is very high between us so we can go right back to work.”
Finally, there’s the money. $8 million. And, he has an opportunity to drive his numbers up as UFA next summer when more teams have cap space.
If you look at the Sabres lineup, it’s immediately better and more well-rounded with Hall on the depth chart.
Hall Could Have Gone a Number of Directions
Most of the big-name, high-ticket free agents didn’t come off the board early in free agency. Part of that was because of Taylor Hall. His process was a little different than others and word was he was ready to accept a short-term.
There was talk he’d fit best in a place like Colorado and on a team that was stacked and favorites to win the 2020-21 Stanley Cup. But, some insiders weren’t sure if this was likely considering Colorado couldn’t commit long-term to Hall.
There was also talk teams with cap room might try to appeal to his financial side. The Columbus Blue Jackets had cleared a ton of cap space just a day before free agency opened and many believed they were planning something. Hall could have been that something. Right idea, wrong team.
In the end, Hall went with the Sabres and everyone is left shocked.
One of the Best Left-Wingers in the NHL
Hall is a former Hart Trophy Winner and a confident point-producer in the NHL. There’s a bit of a knock on the amount of goals he produces versus the points he gets, but in this year’s free agent class, he was easily the top prize at his position.
The Coyotes were interested in keeping him, but the team was busy shedding salary and it was clear they weren’t going to be contenders. The question will now be if Hall chose the right destination.
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