Nobody saw this coming.
Taylor Hall, the National Hockey League’s winner of the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player in 2018 and the first overall draft pick in 2010 by the Edmonton Oilers, agreed to a one-year contract with the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday night worth $8 million.
It was seen by most as a peculiar signing for Hall, who had spent most of his career with losing teams in Edmonton, the New Jersey Devils and the Arizona Coyotes. It was widely assumed that Hall would look to sign with a contender and go hunting for a Stanley Cup ring rather than chase a large salary elsewhere.
Instead the 28-year-old left winger latched on with the Sabres, who have missed the postseason nine consecutive years and, should they fail to reach the playoffs in 2021, could equal the league record for the longest streak in league history. Here are From The 300 Level’s thoughts on Buffalo’s signing:
NEVER DISCREDIT THE IMPACT OF A COACH
The top drawing card for Hall to come to Buffalo, of course, was the ability to play with Jack Eichel. But just as important for him was to be able to play for a coach that he both respected and enjoyed, and Ralph Krueger represents the best of both worlds to Hall.
“Ralph is a very interesting human being. He’s so diversified in his interests and how he talks to people… I think in 2020 a coach like him has the greatest chance at connecting with athletes and really making people better,” Hall told the Buffalo media on Monday. “I feel like he can get the most out of people. When I had him as an assistant coach, he was awesome and the year I had him as a head coach – other than my MVP year – was probably my most successful year, even though it was a shortened season.
“He got the most out of me, I have a lot of respect for him, and in saying that he’s a very good hockey mind too. He sees the game in a way that an offensive guy would want to play for. You see how Eichel was able to up his production last year and take a step, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Ralph was able to get a lot out of him.”
Krueger coached Hall for three years from 2010-13 – his first two as an assistant and his last season as head coach of the Oilers.
IT’S A WIN-WIN SITUATION FOR THE SABRES
And for multiple reasons. The signing sends a message to Eichel, the rest of the league and to the fans that Buffalo is tired of losing and that they are ready to try and win now. The addition of Hall is a big upgrade to the team’s top two lines and his contract is very favorable to the Sabres. The best-case scenario is that Hall’s situation becomes like Jeff Skinner’s was when Buffalo traded for him two years ago – if he produces well, wants to stay and if he and general manager Kevyn Adams can work out a long term contract – he could become a very valuable member of Buffalo’s core.
WHY THE NO-MOVE AND NO-TRADE CLAUSES?
On the flip side, the worst-case scenario could be if Hall underachieves, the losing wears on him and the Sabres are forced to send to him to another team at the trade deadline for long-term assets.
But the problem is that his contract reportedly contains both a no-trade clause and a no-move clause – restricting heavily where the Sabres could move him if they so choose. There’s no word on if those clauses are limited, but if they are Hall could choose a destination to go to. If not, and Hall eventually leaves via free agency for greener pastures, Buffalo could have a problem is they get nothing in return for him.