NHL Trade Deadline Profile: Taylor Hall
Taylor Hall took a calculated risk this summer. After fielding offers from contending teams like the Colorado Avalanche and Boston Bruins, he chose to sign a one-year pact with the Buffalo Sabres, a team that finished 26th in the league and hadn't made the playoffs since his rookie season.
On the one hand, the Sabres reportedly offered more money on a one-year deal than other suitors, so immediate financial considerations were certainly a factor. But the opportunity to play with a star player like Jack Eichel and pile up points en route to a COVID-delayed payday certainly seemed like a good reason to defy expectations and head to a franchise where even competing for a wild-card spot has been an uphill battle.
The risk hasn’t paid off, to say the least. As of this writing, Hall has scored twice and is up to 16 points in 29 games, not the calibre of output one commensurate with an $8-million salary. Eichel, the star centre with whom Hall was supposed to form a dynamic duo, is out seemingly for the remainder of the season, and rookie Dylan Cozens has been forced onto the top line. Oh, and the Sabres are the worst team in hockey, with a winning percentage equal to the 2020-21 Red Wings (27.5 percent) and a 5-on-5 goals for percentage that would rank as the worst in the league since 2007-08.
While this is very bad news for Hall, it could result in a huge win for a contending team at the deadline. All the factors are in place for a buyer to snap him up for pennies on the dollar, not least of which is the fact that he possesses a full no-move clause, meaning he exerts control over his destination.
On March 1st, Craig Custance and Eric Duhatschek of The Athletic quoted a source in the league as saying that Buffalo shouldn’t even expect to receive a first-round pick considering his salary and play. A team who can acquire Hall for less than that will win big. Because he’s still a really, really good hockey player. He isn’t washed up, he hasn’t fallen off a cliff since leaving New Jersey, and the points don’t tell the full story.
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