While the Sabres aren’t expected to get a contract extension in place with Linus Ullmark today, they don’t intend to move him by today’s trade deadline, reports John Wawrow of the Associated Press (Twitter link). Instead, the team remains hopeful that they’ll be able to work out a new deal with the netminder before free agency opens up this summer. Ullmark has had a pretty successful year with Buffalo despite all of their struggles, posting a 2.64 GAA along with a .917 SV% in 19 starts this season. That has him positioned to land a nice increase on his current $2.6MM salary either from the Sabres or elsewhere this summer.
7:00 AM: The Bruins have officially announced the trade.
10:59 PM: The most talked-about rental this season has finally found a home, as the Boston Bruins turned around from their 8-1 loss this evening and will acquire Taylor Hall from the Buffalo Sabres according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet. John Buccigross of ESPN was the first to suggest a deal was coming on Twitter (in quite entertaining fashion). Darren Dreger of TSN reports that the deal will be Hall and injured forward Curtis Lazar for Anders Bjork and a second-round pick. According to Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic, the Sabres have retained 50% of Hall’s $8MM cap hit through the end of this season.
Hall had full control of this process, given he held a no-movement clause and could block a trade to any team in the league. He decided to waive that clause to go to Boston. David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period notes that the New York Islanders and Washington Capitals were also in the running earlier today. The fact that the Sabres were unable to secure a first-round pick for Hall will be the takeaway for Buffalo fans, but Hall is in the midst of a brutal season. While you can’t forget that he was the league MVP in 2018, you also can’t ignore the fact that he scored just two goals in 37 games for the Sabres this year.
Still, giving up just a second and Bjork, who has just two goals of his own this season, is a no-brainer for the Bruins, with their eyes set on postseason contention. If Hall can find any semblance of his past self in Boston he can be a difference-maker on the second line, giving the team some secondary scoring that they’ve been lacking for so long.
Bjork has established himself as an NHL player with good defensive abilities but will turn 25 later this summer and has just 39 points in 138 career regular season games. One important factor here is that he’s under contract through the 2022-23 season at a reasonable $1.6MM, but it’s not like he is going to provide a huge impact for the rebuilding Sabres. In fact, one could argue that Lazar can provide about the same value when healthy and is under contract through next season for just $800K. Moving Bjork at tomorrow’s deadline doesn’t seem out of the question if the Sabres can find an interested party.
The Bruins are also taking on $4MM in cap, which is much higher than some of the other names that have been moved around recently. The fact that they can absorb that hit is why Hall’s price is so low, as they did not need to involve another team, which would have meant giving up another asset. Even without going into long-term injured reserve, the Bruins should have just enough room to fit Hall in after sending Bjork the other way.
At the end of the day, this deal will mean nothing for Boston if Hall can’t find his form. The team has taken swings on high profile wingers before and had them struggle down the stretch, but Hall will certainly be surrounded by more talent in his new locker room. In all likelihood, the 29-year-old winger will get just his third chance at the postseason this year, though it isn’t even a guarantee at this point. Boston is now just four points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers for fourth place in the East Division (though they do have two games in hand), meaning Hall will need to start contributing right away if he wants to get another taste of the playoffs.
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Taylor Hall has been sitting for just over a week now while waiting to see where he’ll be traded to. It appears his new team may soon be known as TSN’s Darren Dreger reports (Twitter links) that the Sabres have made progress on the trade front today and there are believed to just be three teams left in the mix for his services. Buffalo will undoubtedly need to retain a sizable chunk of his $8MM cap hit (they can hold up to half) and as we’ve seen with recent notable moves, a third-party facilitator could also be in play. While the 29-year-old is having quite a rough season with just two goals in 37 games, he could be an intriguing wild card for whoever gets him down the stretch.
While veteran Henrik Lundqvist was hoping to return to the NHL for the playoffs, the 39-year-old veteran announced via Twitter that those hopes will not be possible. The goaltender, who signed with the Washington Capitals in the offseason only to have to sit out the year after learning that he required open-heart surgery to fix issues with his heart, has been back on the ice for almost a month in hopes of joining Washington. However, he announced that inflammation around his heart requires more time for rest and recovery.
“Last week’s checkup showed some inflammation around the heart that now requires a few months more of rest and steady recovery,” wrote Lundqvist. “While it’s not what I hoped for, I know this is all part of the process of getting back to 100%.”
While a return to the NHL this season seemed highly unlikely, it’s disappointing for Lundqvist, the Capitals and fans who would have loved to see the veteran back on the ice.
- The New Jersey Devils could be close to getting back their No. 1 center as head coach Lindy Ruff said that Nico Hischier is “very close to playing, he’s closing in on that date,” according to NHL.com’s Amanda Stein. The 22-year-old has struggled staying in the lineup due to injuries. He was forced to sit out for the first month of the season with a leg injury and after appearing in five games, he suffered a facial fracture that required surgery. He practiced with the team Sunday, working with the penalty killing unit and is expected to rejoin the team’s No. 1 power play once he returns.
- The New York Islanders have placed forward Ross Johnston on injured reserve due to an undisclosed injury, according to The Athletic’s Arthur Staple. That will allow the team to recall Oliver Wahlstrom from the taxi squad. The 27-year-old Johnston hasn’t seen too much time with the Islanders this season, appearing in just nine games. He has no points, but has 35 penalty minutes. Wahlstrom will likely have to battle with Leo Komarov for playing time.
- Chris Ryan of NJ.com reports that the third-round pick sent to the Washington Capitals for Jonas Siegenthaler is technically still conditional. The Devils sent the Arizona Coyotes’ third-round pick to Washington, which was acquired in the Taylor Hall trade. However, there was a condition to the deal in which New Jersey would actually get Arizona’s second-round pick if Hall re-signs with the Coyotes. Of course, that condition is extremely unlikely considering that Hall is now in Buffalo. Unless the Sabres trade him to Arizona and Hall signs an extension with them before the draft, that condition wouldn’t happen. However, in the unlikely circumstances that did happen, the Devils would then opt to send their own third-rounder to Washington for Siegenthaler.
The Panthers have had a big hole on their back end since Aaron Ekblad suffered a season-ending leg injury last month. They’ve taken a step towards shoring up their depth and have taken one of the more notable rentals off the board with the acquisition of Brandon Montour from Buffalo in exchange for a third-round pick in 2021. Both teams have confirmed the trade. Florida GM Bill Zito released the following statement about his new rearguard:
Brandon is a capable and talented right-shot defenseman who will have an immediate impact on our club. His two-way acumen and ability to play important minutes make him an exciting addition to the Panthers.
The 26-year-old is only a few years removed from being someone viewed as a long-term top-four piece going back to his time with Anaheim. Buffalo was convinced that he’d be that for them and flipped a first-round pick along with Brendan Guhle, a fairly well-regarded prospect at the time, to acquire Montour just two years ago. However, things haven’t gone anywhere near as well as expected with the Sabres.
His offensive output has dipped since putting up two straight seasons of over 30 points in 2017-18 and 2018-19. Last season, he managed just five goals and 13 assists in 54 games while seeing his ATOI dip below the 2o-minute mark. As a result, Montour profiled as a possible non-tender candidate last offseason although the two sides were able to agree to a one-year, $3.85MM contract just before the free agent market opened up. The results have only been mildly better from an offensive standpoint as he’s up to 14 points (5-9-14) in 38 games so far this season but he, like many other Sabres, have struggled considerably at times in the defensive zone.
At 26, Montour still is young enough to turn things around and a change of scenery will certainly be beneficial to him as he looks to restore some value before hitting the UFA market for the first time in July. From Florida’s perspective, the fact that Montour can log 20-plus minutes a night – something most of the blueliners that will be moved in the next two days can’t do – is a big benefit as it allows him to slide into their top four if needed or give a big boost to their third pairing. Considering the state of the right side of their back end with Ekblad out, it’s probable that he begins in a more prominent role, sliding in behind MacKenzie Weegar to bolster their second pair.
Unlike many playoff contenders, cap space isn’t an issue for Florida, especially after they cleared the rest of Brett Connolly’s contract to Chicago earlier this week. They entered today with more than $14MM in cap room, per CapFriendly, so it was something they didn’t require in order for this move to happen; TSN’s Darren Dreger reports (Twitter link) that there was no salary retention on Buffalo’s end, leaving them with two remaining retention slots.
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A few days ago, it looked as if St. Louis was looking towards selling but things may have changed. They sit one point out of the final playoff spot in the West Division and are coming off a 9-1 thrashing of Minnesota on Friday night. With that in mind, TSN’s Frank Seravalli reports that the Blues have inquired about one of the top rentals available in Buffalo winger Taylor Hall.
Hall’s struggles this season have been well-documented as the 29-year-old has just two goals along with 17 assists, hardly the type of production that he or the Sabres were expecting this season. It’s also nowhere near close to justifying his $8MM price tag which is why Buffalo is expected to retain as much as the maximum 50% to facilitate a trade between now and Monday’s trade deadline. Hall is also willing to entertain extension talks as well, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported on Thursday (Twitter link).
St. Louis doesn’t have the cap space to take on a $4MM deal after retention but they do have a winger who appears to be on the outs in Mike Hoffman. He has also struggled with his new team, notching nine goals with a dozen assists in 36 games, well below the 36 and 29 goals he tallied in each of the last two years when he was with Florida. If they were to include him in a trade for Hall and Buffalo retained half, there would be no cap change on either side.
Of course, the question would then become what other asset(s) would be added by St. Louis to make such a move palatable for the Sabres. While it’s possible (if not probable) that Buffalo would turn around and flip Hoffman in this particular scenario, they’d still be looking for other picks or prospects.
GM Kevyn Adams has been seeking a first-round pick for Hall but so far, there haven’t been any takers. If that doesn’t change over the next couple of days, a move like this that would yield another piece or two plus whatever they can get by flipping Hoffman could become more of a legitimate possibility while St. Louis could become a very intriguing team in the playoff chase in the process.
Caggiula, 26, scored 41 goals and 76 points through the first 222 games of his career, playing an energy role in the bottom-six for Edmonton and Chicago. Unfortunately, that production didn’t follow him to Arizona, where he had just one goal and seven points in 27 games this season.
Though he could never really find a fit in the desert, Caggiula comes to a Buffalo team that is desperate for some work ethic and fresh energy. Not only will he likely receive more responsibility and ice time, but this will be a great way for Caggiula to audition for his next contract. He settled for a one-year deal at the league minimum of $700K in late December and hasn’t had a great showing so far. A good few weeks with the struggling Sabres could change all that and send him to unrestricted free agency with something to build on.
There is also potentially a chance that Buffalo flips him by the deadline, especially if they know that another team was going to claim him. Being in last place, the Sabres would have had waiver priority over every other team in the league, meaning Caggiula never even had a chance to go anywhere else.
The Buffalo Sabres may be busy talking to other teams ahead of the trade deadline, but that doesn’t mean the other work stops. The team has signed Linus Weissbach to a two-year entry-level contract following his senior season at the University of Wisconsin. The deal will begin in the 2021-22 season. Had the Sabres not signed him, Weissbach could have become an unrestricted free agent in August.
Now 22, the undersized Weissbach has come a long way from the seventh round of the 2017 draft, when he was picked 192nd overall by the Sabres. At that point, he was coming off a strong but not outstanding season with the Tri-City Storm of the USHL and looked like he was a long shot to have success in professional hockey. Now after four outstanding seasons at Wisconsin, including lining up alongside top Montreal Canadiens prospect Cole Caufield, Weissbach is a legitimate prospect for the Sabres and one to keep an eye on.
Still small, measuring in at a generous 5’8″, Weissbach has shown an unshakeable work ethic in his time at Wisconsin and has his sights set on success at the professional level. In his senior season he posted 41 points in 31 games, finishing behind only Caufield and Odeen Tufto (who recently signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning) in scoring across the nation. That kind of offensive production will have to be his calling card at the next level, but if he can continue to create chances for his linemates with strong playmaking abilities, his small stature may not hold him back for long.
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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The Buffalo Sabres could be getting closer to a trade of Taylor Hall, as Darren Dreger of TSN tweets that “there’s a sense talks have escalated.” Dreger doesn’t believe a move is “imminent” but after the New Jersey Devils pulled Kyle Palmieri over the weekend, the precautionary pull is something to watch for.
Hall is one of the top rental targets on the open market and the Sabres need to make sure they get the best package possible before the deadline. Risking him to injury in a lost season doesn’t seem to make much sense.
- The NHL has issued a schedule update, but it will likely be followed by a further announcement this evening. The change has the Calgary Flames playing against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday April 10, when they are still technically scheduled to meet the Vancouver Canucks. With so many positive test results for the Canucks over the past week—a 17th player was added to the COVID Protocol today—their games on Thursday and Saturday were always unlikely to be played.
- The Florida Panthers have reassigned Vladislav Kolyachonok from the KHL to the AHL for the rest of the season. The 19-year-old defenseman was a second-round pick in 2019 and became a regular for Dynamo Minsk this season, recording six points in 46 games. He’ll get his first chance of pro hockey in North America, but isn’t a stranger to these parts; Kolyachonok played two years in the OHL for the Flint Firebirds before returning to the KHL this season.