Deja vu all over again. The Buffalo Sabres will hold Taylor Hall out of tonight’s game, interim head coach Don Granato told reporters including John Vogl of The Athletic. Hall should be used to this after going through the same process in December 2019 with the New Jersey Devils when trade talks had heated up with the Arizona Coyotes. The pending free agent forward will be dealt before Monday’s deadline after a brutal season in Buffalo. Darren Dreger of TSN reported yesterday that there is a sense trade talks were escalating, though nothing has been officially announced yet.
Coincidentally, it’s the Devils that the Sabres are set to play tonight and they’re holding out their own deadline asset in Kyle Palmieri. Arguably the two most sought after rentals at the deadline, they’ll have to watch their struggling teams do battle and hope the next stop is a more competitive one. The Sabres are now 8-23-6 on the season and have scored just 82 goals in 37 games, while the Devils aren’t that much better at 13-17-6 with 88 tallies in 36 games.
Hall specifically has been terrible for the Sabres, scoring just two goals on the season. Just one of those has come at even strength and his assists have even dried up of late. In his last 13 games, Hall has just three points and has generated just 24 shots on goal despite averaging more than 17 minutes of ice time. Still, it’s that 2017-18 Hart Trophy season that makes Hall such an intriguing factor at the trade deadline as teams will try to unlock that MVP-level ability.
Of course, it’s hard to see that season as anything other than an outlier at this point. Hall is now 29 and is on his 11th NHL season. Only twice has he recorded more than 65 points and only once has he broken the 30-goal mark. A huge reason for that is injuries, but his predilection for missing games is also something that should be considered when spending assets to acquire him at the deadline.
Still, with strong possession numbers for the Sabres this season and such obvious one-on-one skill, Hall is an enticing package for contenders. Buffalo’s asking price so far has started with a first-round pick, and though it may be difficult to secure that, Sabres GM Kevyn Adams will do everything in his power to maximize the return. It seems likely that Buffalo will retain half of Hall’s $8MM cap hit to bring more teams into the conversation, but it’s not entirely up to them on where he ends up. Hall has a full no-movement clause and can block a trade to any team in the league. That means the Sabres must work with him to find a fitting landing spot in the coming days.
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