Hall made right play to join Sabres
Coaches like players with high hockey IQ. These are the athletes who instinctively know what play to make at any given time.
Apparently, Taylor Hall’s hockey IQ also covers knowing the right play in a sluggish free agent marketplace. With most teams pushed closer to the cap ceiling than they want to be in this pandemic economy, Hall wasn’t being offered the combination of term and salary that he believed was deserved.
His solution was accept an one-year $8 million offer, which gives him a strong salary for this crazy season and flexibility next summer if the hockey economy is improved.
Quality decision by Hall. Meaningful signing by first-year general manager Kevyn Adams.
Hall is going to a team where he knows the coach (Ralph Krueger) from their days together in Edmonton. By signing with the Sabres, Hall is likely to play with Jack Eichel. At the very least, he will be on the power play with Eichel. It is not unreasonable to project that Hall will enjoy one of his best seasons. The Eichel-Hall connection is intriguing.
Nobody knows how many games the NHL will play next season, but we know that next summer he will be free to negotiate with all NHL teams, some of them in a much better cap situation than they are today.
He might be able to secure the seven-year lucrative deal that he couldn’t in today’s pandemic-dominated environment. If he re-signs with Buffalo, he could get an eight-year contract. If that happens, it would be like he agreed to a nine-year deal over the weekend.
This was a smart play.
It’s also a slick play by Adams. He probably didn’t like his odds of recruiting Hall when this started, but he plowed ahead and was rewarded for his effort.
The Sabres needed a splash like this to start winning back a discouraged fan base. The Sabres have missed the playoffs for nine consecutive seasons. They are unhappy with the Terry Pegula ownership.
This Eichel move doesn’t guarantee a playoff spot. But it raises the level of hope. Earlier, Adams traded for center Eric Staal. This team now has two quality centers in Eichel and Staal, and scoring wingers in Hall, Sam Reinhart, Victor Oloffson and Jeff Skinner. Although Skinner is coming off a miserable season, you have to expect he will again score at 20-plus goal rate.
The Sabres also have the NHL’s best young defenseman in Rasmus Dahlin. Maybe Casey Mittelstadt breaks through this season. Maybe Adams upgrades the goaltending at some point this season. Maybe they add help at the trade deadline.
If Hall and Eichel click, maybe Hall will want to stay.
Suddenly, the Sabres are deeper in optimism.