There is a surprise winner of the Taylor Hall sweepstakes as the Sabres have announced that they’ve signed the winger to a one-year, $8MM contract. PuckPedia notes (Twitter link) that Hall will receive a $1MM signing bonus and full no-trade and no-move clauses.
This is certainly a surprise location for the 28-year-old as of the teams that had been rumored to be in on him, Buffalo hadn’t come up. Hall is coming off of a fairly quiet season by his standards but he still put up 16 goals and 36 assists in 65 games between New Jersey and Arizona while chipping in with six points (two goals, four assists) in Arizona’s nine postseason games.
While still productive, those numbers are still well below his Hart-winning numbers from two years ago when he had 39 goals and 54 assists with the Devils. His play since then has led to some questions of whether he has started to tail off or if it’s just a short-term dip which has made his UFA case an interesting one. Between that and the pandemic, his chances for a big-money, long-term deal were basically non-existent so he had floated the idea of being willing to accept a short-term pact in the right situation.
It appears that the right situation is with Buffalo where he’ll join a familiar head coach in Ralph Krueger. The two were together back in Edmonton for the first three years of Hall’s career from 2010-11 through 2012-13 with the winger putting up 50 points in 45 games, the third-best single-season point per game average of his career.
Hall, our number two rated UFA in our Top-50 list, should be an interesting option to play alongside Jack Eichel on Buffalo’s top line. The center surpassed the point per game mark for the second straight season and would give Hall an opportunity to have a strong year offensively and try to position himself to be in a better situation for a more lucrative deal next season. That would seemingly push Jeff Skinner down to the second line with RFA pivot Sam Reinhart, giving the Sabres two potentially strong scoring lines.
This is a deal with minimal risk for Buffalo. If it doesn’t work out, there are no long-term repercussions on the cap and as an expiring contract, he’d carry some trade value closer to the trade deadline. If Hall helps propel them to playoff contention (they’ve missed for nine straight years), it would seemingly give them a leg up on working out a new deal for 2021-22 and beyond.
Buffalo now has roughly $13.4MM in remaining cap space, per CapFriendly, the majority of which will be earmarked for their restricted free agents, highlighted by Reinhart, winger Victor Olofsson, and goalie Linus Ullmark. Kevyn Adams has made some smaller moves to begin his tenure as Buffalo’s general manager but he has now made his first big splash.
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