Late on Sunday night the Buffalo Sabres pulled the trigger on the much anticipated trade of veteran forward Taylor Hall, but instead of being celebrated by their fan base the trade has largely been mocked as a failure from Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams. Now before we get into why I do not believe that to be the case, let's first take a look at the trade itself.
The Boston Bruins get:
Taylor Hall (50% of salary retained by the Buffalo Sabres)
The Buffalo Sabres get:
Second round draft selection (2021).
When you consider the fact that the rumor mill had indicated that the Sabres were seeking a first round pick and more in exchange for Hall, this absolutely looks like a meager return. That being said I don't know how realistic it was to suggest that the Sabres were ever going to get that kind of a return for Hall and now I will go into a few reasons why. Here they are in no particular order:
#1 Taylor Hall's salary.
In the pandemic era of the National Hockey League the salary cap is king. The cap not moving this season has had a dramatic impact on the league and one need look no further than some of the waiver moves this year for evidence of that. In spite of the fact that quality players have found themselves on waivers several times, teams have been unwilling to claim them due to being unable to take on the additional salary. At a cap hit of $8 million, Hall's contract likely took a huge number of teams that may have been interested in him right out of the running.
It is true that there have been some creative 3 way deals ahead of this deadline that have found ways to work around salary cap issues, but in everyone of those cases that resulted in the team acquiring the player giving up extra assets. When we look at the return the Sabres got for Hall, I don't think there was any chance of that happening in this scenario.
#2 Taylor Hall's no movement clause.
Hall's contract with the Sabres contained a full no movement clause which meant that he had full control of his destiny leading up to the deadline. For all we know Hall went to general manager Kevyn Adams and gave him a short list of teams he would accept a trade to, potentially handicapping the number of options available to the Sabres general manager. I am of course speculating here, but I do believe Hall would have exercised that clause to choose where he ended up.
Hell, there's even a world in which Hall went to Adams and told him that he would only accept a trade to the Bruins. In that scenario the Sabres GM would have had his hands tied when it comes to making a trade.
Update: Comments from Hall today would appear to lend some credence to this theory.
#3 Taylor Hall's terrible performance.
It's not crazy to wonder how many people actually wanted this guy ahead of the trade deadline. Although the Sabres poor season no doubt impacted his individual numbers, those numbers were catastrophic this season. In 37 games Hall managed just 2 goals and 17 assists for a total of 19 points, and finished his time with the Sabres with an ugly plus minus rating of -21. Those are not the kind of elite numbers team's are going to give up their prized assets for.
It's true Hall was the NHL's most valuable player just a few short years ago, but he showed nowhere near that level of form this season.
#4 The stigma that surrounds Taylor Hall.
It may be unfair to Hall but the man has simply not been a winner at the National Hockey League level. It's true that he has largely played for underwhelming teams and in many cases teams with very poor goaltending, but the reality is that outside of his individual achievements Hall has largely failed to win anything at the NHL level.
He never went anywhere with the Oilers and was quickly knocked out of his playoff runs with both the Devils and the Coyotes, in spite of the fact that Hall himself played well in those series. There's no doubt in my mind that his history of losing at the NHL level had at least some NHL general managers looking elsewhere for help ahead of the deadline, especially when you add in the other factors I've mentioned here already.
I can certainly understand why fans in Buffalo are outraged at this trade, but I don't think it is as cut and dry as many have tried to make it seem.