By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Taylor Hall stunned the hockey world with his decision to sign a one-year, $8 million deal with the Buffalo Sabres.
It was believed that Hall was willing to take a short-term deal, sure, but with a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. The Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, and Nashville Predators were among the teams mentioned along that line of thinking. With a depressed free agent market and a flat cap, it was actually considered Hall’s best play at both contending and a future payday. (Hall stressed his desire to win when talking about his impending free agency this past summer.) It was also believed that Hall had long-term deal interest from teams such as the Columbus Blue Jackets and Montreal Canadiens.
In the end, however, Hall landed with the Sabres, a team that has not qualified for the postseason since 2011, and on a deal that does not come with that long-term financial stability. It was just plain bizarre, really.
But thanks to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, we now have a slight glimpse into what Hall saw with Buffalo.
“Hall wanted to know where he was playing,” said Friedman. “He didn’t want to sit and wait. The Sabres were in and committed, with a coach he likes and the best centre he’s ever played with. It’s bold. The NHL needs that.”
That best center he’s ever played with is the Sabres’ Jack Eichel, who is straight-up starving for postseason play, and is probably a year away from straight-up demanding out of Buffalo if things don’t change in a major way. Hall also has experience playing for Sabres coach Ralph Krueger, as Krueger was on the Oilers’ coaching staff from 2010 through 2013, first as an associate coach during Hall’s rookie season and then as the team’s head coach during the lockout-delayed, 48-game season in 2013.
The decision didn’t come without some interest from those contenders though, as noted by Friedman.
“Hall had a lot of teams saying, ‘Once we move this, we can pay you this,’ even on a one-year deal. I think he was intrigued by Boston and Vegas, but neither could commit without moving money,” said Friedman. “.. With cash so tight, who knows how long it would have taken? Even then, many of the offers were around $3 million less than Buffalo’s offer. (It’s possible the Bruins were closer, willing to stretch for Hall, but that’s unconfirmed.)”
It’s interesting that the Bruins considered Hall… but with the caveat that they had to move money first.
The Bruins still have over $11 million in cap space after re-signing Kevan Miller and adding Craig Smith, and have to hammer out a new deal for the arbitration-bound Matt Grzelcyk. The futures of both restricted free agent Jake DeBrusk and unrestricted free agent and 14-season B’s captain Zdeno Chara are currently up in the air, too.
In theory, they had enough to add Hall, though it would’ve required some difficult conversations elsewhere.
So, if the Bruins were looking to move money before adding Hall, that likely meant flipping the 23-year-old DeBrusk, along with a still-signed player such as Nick Ritchie ($1.48 million) and/or John Moore ($2.75 million), as part of a deal for a left-shot defenseman; The Bruins’ pursuit of Oliver Ekman-Larsson proved to be unsuccessful due to the Coyotes’ outrageous ask despite their obvious lack of any semblance of leverage, and Torey Krug left for a high-dollar deal with the St. Louis Blues.
Perhaps that’s easier said than done — and especially from a negotiating standpoint when you’re talking about flipping these guys after signing Hall — and it ultimately proved to be too much for Hall to hitch his wagon to in a rough-looking market.
But it won’t silence any critiques of what’s been an offseason of mostly swing-and-miss talks by the Bruins.