It took just one meeting for Bruins winger Taylor Hall to make it abundantly clear that he’s wanted to be in Boston. For a while now, too, with Hall falling in love with the city and its hockey fans during his first trip to town back in 2010.
In fact, Hall went as far to say that he’d like to be more than a rental for the Bruins.
“I’d love to be a Bruin for a few years,” the 29-year-old Hall, who signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the Sabres after his attempt to come to the Bruins didn’t pan out, admitted. “It’s been a bad year for me personally. I need to play well, I need to contribute, and most of all, I want to be a part of a team that wins games.
“I really believe that we can do that here [in Boston], and that’s just my main goal.”
But does Bruins general manager Don Sweeney feel the same as it relates to a multi-year partnership?
“It usually comes with success and fitting in,” Sweeney said about Hall sticking with the Bruins beyond this season. “Taylor will have a say in that, and our group will have a say in that in terms of how those two things come together.”
It’s no shock that Sweeney isn’t sitting at the negotiating table with Hall and openly stating his team’s long-term intentions right out of the gate here. A Hart Trophy winner just three years ago, Hall is one hell of a talent, but he’s arriving to the Bruins in the midst of his worst season ever, with just two goals and 19 points in 37 games, and with career-worst marks in shooting percentage (2.3 percent) and plus-minus (minus-21). The Bruins do believe that there’s a luck factor at play here, but they want and need to see it swing the other way before they’re going to outright state that Hall is more than a rental.
“It’s a short period of time that you have to find the chemistry and find out where you fit,” Sweeney acknowledged. “We’ve had players in the past that, they might a have been expiring deals, but we felt they would be a good fit going forward and we’d like to believe that with Taylor. I think the proof will be in the results.”
What’s interesting about Hall’s arrival to the Bruins is that he’s the first true ‘rental’ the Bruins have acquired since Marcus Johansson in 2019. The Bruins opted for Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie, both of whom had term on their deals and restricted free agent status as the end of those deals, in 2020, and acquired Charlie Coyle with another year left on his deal. (The Bruins later signed Coyle to a six-year extension early into the final year of that deal.) The Bruins remained in talks with Johansson leading up to the start of free agency in 2019, too, but ultimately opted to left him walk to Buffalo.
But re-signing a rental isn’t completely foreign to the Bruins. Under Sweeney, the Bruins kept defenseman John-Michael Liles around for another season after acquiring him at the 2016 trade deadline.
The closest comparable for Hall, however, is probably Rick Nash.
Acquired from the Rangers prior to the 2018 trade deadline, the Bruins honestly looked at Nash, though in the final year of his current contract, as a multi-year option on David Krejci’s line. (The price they paid to acquire him sorta confirmed that.) Concussion issues dashed those hopes, however, as Nash surprised everyone when he opted to retire at the end of the season despite a solid showing in Boston — Nash totaled three goals and six points in 11 regular-season games, and added three goals and five points in 12 postseason tilts — and drawing significant interest from the Bruins.
The prospect of re-signing Hall goes beyond the obvious qualifiers such as his production and asking price. The latter, by the way, shouldn’t be an issue for the Bruins this offseason. It’s more about who do the Bruins lose in the expansion draft? How does the front office feel about the hot-and-cold Jake DeBrusk and his ceiling at the end of this season? What does Nick Ritchie’s next deal look like and is it with the Bruins? Do they string together some sort of package for a high-impact defenseman and what does that cost them? Those are just a few of the dozen or so questions facing Sweeney.
But the best thing Hall can do is prove that his second gamble of the year (and the one he wanted to make when he first hit free agency for the first time in his career last offseason) is the right one for both himself and the Bruins.
“I think [Hall] accepts the challenge and that’s why he chose [Boston],” said Sweeney. “He had a chance and some evaluations talking with [Sabres general manager] Kevyn Adams, who did a really good job communicating as to where we thought we’d be able to find a deal, and we’re fortunate Taylor chose us. And there’s a give-and-take with that.
“We’ll see how it unfolds. Get him comfortable and hopefully he has success. As much success as possible.”