Taylor Hall is likely going to be on the move before the NHL Trade Deadline, but where are the best spots for him to land and rebound?
It’s been a season to forget for Taylor Hall — and that frustration extends beyond his individual performance.
The Buffalo Sabres have failed to win in 18 consecutive games — the longest losing streak seen in the NHL since the inception of the shootout era. Team performance aside however, Buffalo’s prized winger that was acquired via free agency on Oct. 11 has consistently looked like a shell of his former self — that being the aforementioned Hall.
When the 29-year old inked a one-year, $8 million deal with the Sabres prior to the condensed campaign, the hockey world knew that the former first-overall pick was betting on himself. From Edmonton to New Jersey to Arizona to Buffalo — Hall seemed to have found his match with franchise center Jack Eichel, in an attempt to recapture his MVP form from 2017-2018.
Instead, Hall is stuck on two goals in 34 games this season, and Eichel has been limited to just 21 games played due to an upper-body injury.
Buffalo is approaching uncharted territory with its losing, and with Hall on an expiring contract, a trade involving the winger appears to be inevitable prior to the league’s April 12 trade deadline.
Hall’s full no-movement clause potentially throws a wrench into who can actually acquire the winger, but at this point, it’s safe to say that playing out the season with the Sabres does no good for his value if he hits the open market this offseason.
New York Islanders
The Barry Trotz-led New York Islanders have lost just one home game in regulation this year. And after a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals a year ago, there’s no reason to believe that Lou Lamoriello and company will be quiet on deadline day.
That may have been the case before, but not after it was revealed that team captain Andres Lee will miss the remainder of the season — in a flash, Hall fills a void on the second-place Islanders.
The discussion amongst fans, reporters and management in New York is a valid, yet simple: Which Taylor Hall are we getting?
Surely, no team in the league would pay a premium for a player who has produced like the 2020-2021 version of Hall. But with a fresh team, and in a new system, the dismal performance could take a turn for the better. That’s what any team would be thinking — after all, this is still Taylor Hall we’re talking about.
After losing its captain long-term, New York is in a position to make a slash at the deadline, and Hall could very well find himself playing alongside Mathew Barzal after April 12.
The defensively-minded Islanders have developed quite an identity for themselves, and whether Hall fits with that or not will justify the potential price that the team would pay to make the acquisition.
St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues were reportedly knocking on the door last year to acquire Hall. Instead, the forward was shipped to the Arizona Coyotes and the Blues continued to struggle with goal-scoring.
One year later and St. Louis is seemingly in the same position.
The Blues rank 17th overall in the NHL in scoring, and find themselves just one point clear of the final playoff spot in the West Division.
Vladimir Tarasenko’s return to the lineup has helped, but his impact hasn’t put the Blues over the top. There’s no guarantee that Hall would either, but at the right price, the Blues should be in play for the Sabres’ forward.
St. Louis is currently in a tight salary cap situation that doesn’t make a trade with Buffalo so easy, but the lack of recent goal-scoring may possibly apply the pressure on the Blues’ brass to make it work.
Last year, it was reported that 2019 Stanley Cup Champions offered a package to Hall’s former team in New Jersey that included Robert Thomas and Jake Allen.
The addition of Hall would make the Blues’ top-six a formidable group in the scope of the West’s best. With two of the best teams in the NHL residing in St. Louis’ division, the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights, the Blues are in tough but continue to be in a persistent win-now mode after the team’s Cup run 2019.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs pose one of the best top-six groups on-paper in all of hockey, and the first line in particular has played up to the label.
But it’s been the worst kept secret this trade deadline season — Kyle Dubas and the Maple Leafs are looking to add another top-six forward.
The forward depth in Toronto has been a strength of the team this year, as evident with all the moving parts and variety of line combinations experimented with by head coach Sheldon Keefe.
Hall is not the end all be all for the Maple Leafs. Other forwards like Mikael Granlund and Kyle Palmieri appear to be available ahead of the trade deadline — perhaps at a cheaper price. But Toronto, much like the Islanders, are in a position of strength. The trade chips are there and enticing to a potential suitor.
Team captain John Tavares has had one of the more interesting years of his career — the numbers remain respectable but one critique made regarding the center’s play is his inability to drive a line and act as a true running mate down the middle with Auston Matthews.
Hall on a line with Tavares is intriguing, and a potential matchup nightmare for the opposition.
However, like the Blues, Toronto finds themselves in a tricky spot with the salary cap. In all likelihood with the Maple Leafs, Hall is just a rental and would be treated as one in any potential trade.