Updated Potential Trades and Landing Spots for Sabres Winger Taylor Hall
The only thing left is the press conference.
Unless the Buffalo Sabres have a heck of a cliffhanger coming, the NHL's April 12 trade deadline will be preceded by at least one completely unsurprising transaction, in which big-ticket forward and former MVP Taylor Hall's truncated season in competitive purgatory is ended when he's sent to an ambitious contender.
The 29-year-old left winger's one-year, $8 million deal with the Sabres was among the biggest shockers of the offseason, but the Western New York experiment has turned ugly with the team's plummet to the East Division basement amid a stretch of zero wins in 18 games from February into late March.
The 2018 Hart Trophy winner was a healthy scratch ahead of Tuesday's game against the Devils, a telltale sign that a trade is likely to happen.
Hall had just two goals and 17 points in 37 games through Saturday, including no goals since March 4.
And though he suggested earlier in the season that his stay in Buffalo could last "a while," it's the consensus of trade-watchers these days that Hall will be heading to his fifth team sooner than later.
Still, finding the right fit could prove difficult. Few contenders can afford to take on the contract, and Hall has a full no-movement clause. The Sabres could also be asked to absorb part of his cap hit to facilitate a trade.
With all that in mind, the B/R hockey team got together to update its previous list of would-be trades and landing spots for 2010's top overall draft pick. Take a look at our latest thoughts and drop a comment or two.
It nearly happened 11 years ago.
Back then, as Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin approached the NHL Draft as 2010's preeminent prospects, the Boston Bruins were positioned to get one or the other after the top pick by the Edmonton Oilers.
Had the Oilers grabbed Seguin, there's an excellent chance Hall would have begun his career with the Bruins, who wound up winning the Stanley Cup the following spring against Vancouver.
Instead, Hall went to Edmonton and Seguin headed to Boston, where he played three seasons and scored 56 goals before being traded prior to the 2013-14 season to Dallas—where he reached the 2020 Cup final.
Hall, on the other hand, has played with four teams in 11 seasons and appeared in just 14 playoff games.
His arriving at last to the Bruins could come via a blockbuster that'd send 2015 first-rounder Jake DeBrusk, who had 62 goals in his first three seasons but has scored just three in 22 games, to the Sabres.
We won't promise those as the final logistics, but we will label Boston as the Hall Sweepstakes frontrunner.
Another team, another near miss.
The Colorado Avalanche were in the mix when Hall went from the New Jersey Devils to the Arizona Coyotes a few years back, and they were again a pursuer—and widely considered a favorite—before the Sabres pulled their surprise and got him as a free agent for the aforementioned one year at $8 million.
Buffalo's initial asking price for Hall reportedly includes a first-round draft pick, which the Avalanche may be willing to part with for the chance to finally meld the former MVP with superstar Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen on as good a top line as there is in the NHL.
Assuming a place on a talent-packed roster would bring the best out of the vagabond 29-year-old, Hall would certainly have a legitimate chance at the first championship of his career.
All of a sudden, the Florida Panthers are a thing.
Without a playoff series win since they were beaten for the Stanley Cup in 1996—when Hall was just 4—the Panthers are among the league's best teams heading toward the 2020-21 postseason and could be just a piece or two away from becoming a legitimate favorite to hoist the chalice.
They're flush with enough cap room to handle what's left of Hall's big-ticket deal and still have all their own draft picks—from rounds one through seven—for the next three seasons, which could bolster an offer.
On the ice, it's not hard to see Hall sliding in to join Jonathan Huberdeau, who had 42 points through 39 games as of Sunday, as a prolific left-side option in metropolitan Miami. And it would certainly boost franchise morale after the loss of Norris-quality defenseman Aaron Ekblad to a season-ending injury.
New York Islanders
Necessity is the mother of invention.
And when it comes to the New York Islanders, injury is the mother of transaction.
The surprise of the 2019-20 playoffs with a run to the Eastern Conference finals, the Islanders are amid a strong follow-up but took a hit recently with the loss of captain Anders Lee to a knee injury.
Lee's arrival to long-term injured reserve does mean the team gets relief for his salary, which conveniently frees up the money needed to bring Hall in to plug the on-ice hole.
The Islanders have all but a second-round draft pick for 2021 and everything in the years after, not to mention young players on the level of Kieffer Bellows (forward, 22 years old), Dmytro Timashov (forward, 24 years old) or Josh Ho-Sang (forward, 25 years old) to entice Sabres GM, Kevyn Adams, to make a deal.
Toronto Maple Leafs
There's a reason Kyle Dubas is anxious these days.
The Maple Leafs GM has worked the phones and the books well enough to keep his team atop the North Division for most of the season, which makes Toronto the logical favorite to win a pair of intra-divisional playoff series and advance to the league's final four—within range of its first title since 1967.
Adding a Taylor Hall certainly doesn't hurt those chances.
The former MVP and top pick would bring elite-level playmaking skills to a talent-sopped roster, which would presumably bump his numbers way up from their desultory levels with Buffalo's holdovers.
Heading the other way to Western New York, we suggest 26-year-old forward Alexander Kerfoot, who's never quite regained the form that saw him score 19 and 15 goals in his two NHL seasons in Colorado.
He's scored 15 times in his first 101 games with Toronto, and he could head to Buffalo with 21-year-old defenseman Timothy Liljegren or 19-year-old winger Nicholas Robertson. The former was a second-round pick in 2019 who scored 55 goals with Peterborough of the OHL, while Liljegren was a first-rounder in 2017 and played 11 NHL games last season.
A significant price to pay for an aging free agent-to-be? Absolutely.
Think it will matter if GM Kyle Dubas is riding shotgun in a Cup parade? No chance.