In the early hours of the 2021 NHL trade deadline, word began to spread that the Bruins and Sabres had a deal in place regarding top trade chip Taylor Hall.
The deal was officially official at around 8 a.m. with Hall and Curtis Lazar heading to the Bruins for Anders Bjork and a 2021 second-round pick.
It’s a move that’s long been speculated but finally went down with the NHL trade deadline approaching.
Here are the reasons it worked for Don Sweeny and his Bruins and why it’s a weird one for Sabres GM Kevyn Adams.
1. Secondary scoring
Currently, the Boys from Beantown sit in the last playoff spot in the East with a number of teams within striking distance. And they surely need some offensive juice. The Bruins have just a plus-5 goal differential, which is the lowest among any team currently in the playoffs, and have potted a measly 106 goals (26th in the NHL) with 70 of those at 5v5.
Yes, Hall’s season in Buffalo was a massive fail but he has proven he can score over the course of his career. The 2018 Hart Trophy winner has 582 points in 664 career games and one thing the Bruins lineup has been begging for up front — for a number of years — is secondary scoring.
His addition will allow Bruce Cassidy more flexibility as he’ll most likely slot next to David Krejci, who he spoke highly of when chatting with the media Monday.
“He’s been a great player in our league for such a long time,” Hall said regarding the long-time Bruins centerman. “I have a lot of respect for what he’s done in his career and how he can still play at a high level — it’s incredible — along with a lot of other guys on that team. Such a good puck-mover, smart, can see the game and can move really well out there.”
2. Takes the pressure off Hall
While he was a No. 1 pick, after winning that Hart Trophy three years ago, a lot of pressure was placed on the shoulders of Hall. He was expected to carry the Devils (but then injuries hit). He was expected to be a big-time spark when he went to the Coyotes. He was expected to be “the guy” next to Jack Eichel.
Now, with Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand in the top six, he doesn’t have to be “the guy” and just be one of the guys.
“That was one of the biggest reasons why I wanted to play in Boston,” he said. “That’s why I’m so happy I’m traded here. I’ve been the focal point on a lot of teams in my career and I never made myself the focal point. That’s just the situations that I was in, and the first chance that I got in free agency I went to Buffalo, a team that had Jack Eichel, a player that I think is better than myself. I just wanted to be one of the guys. I wanted to be on a successful team. Ultimately it didn’t work out here in Buffalo, but going to Boston, there’s so many great players on that team — Hall of Famers — guys that have had just amazing careers, careers that if I had anything like that at the end of my career I’d be super happy with.”
3. Long term
Hall mentioned in his Zoom session with reporters that he wanted to go to the Bruins in the offseason but the sides, while close, couldn’t agree on a deal. While he’s only signed through this year, and is an unrestricted free agent, he could be a long-term Bruin based on how the audition works for the remainder of the season.
“I’d love to be a Bruin for a few years. It’s been a bad year for me personally, and I need to play well,” Hall said “I need to contribute, and most of all I want to be part of a team that wins games. I really believe that we can do that here. That’s just my main goal. There’s been a lot of distractions this year, a lot of things that really haven’t gone well and confidence-wise the team here in Buffalo just never got off to the right foot. I think the best way to get confidence is to be a part of a winning team and to make yourself part of the bigger solution, and that’s what I’m looking forward to doing.”
1. Hall had to go
This is a given. Two goals in 37 games — one of those being opening night — just does not cut when you’re a former No. 1 pick and a guy who has a Hart Trophy. It definitely doesn’t cut it when you’re signed to an $8 million deal. And it doesn’t cut it when you’re not only set up with an ex-coach in Ralph Krueger — who worked with Hall for three years in Edmonton and who Hall praised during his media availability following the signing — and a top centerman in Jack Eichel.
It’s easy here. Hall had to go, no questions asked.
“I can’t really give you that answer right now (on what went wrong) because it was such a whirlwind of a year that it went pretty badly, obviously,” he said. “We started off, our first 10 games we were above .500 and then we had the COVID outbreak and we couldn’t get our footing after that.
“And for myself, obviously, it wasn’t the season that I would have liked to have had. Not even close. These last few days, you do some soul-searching and you look back on what you can do better and look forward to the future.”
2. No first-round pick?
Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen was able to snag a first-round pick for David Savard. He was also able to snag a first-round pick for Nick Foligno. So the big question is: How was Adams not able to snag a first-rounder for Hall?
Obviously, the decline over the last few years — and the previously mentioned debacle in 2021 — created a weaker market for Hall. But you’d think there’d be some GM willing to pay the price for the potential upside of Hall.
3. What did they really get?
Basically swapping Lazar and Bjork is a 1-for-1. Two depth guys who don’t bring a whole lot of oomph to the roster but can play bottom-6 roles. So what is the team getting? A second-round pick? Not a big-time haul for Hall. In fact, the Sabres are reportedly paying the Bruins to take Hall. Adams reportedly agreed to retain 50 percent of the remaining contract on Hall, helping out the Bruins who didn’t have the cap space to take on the entire contract.
Big picture: The Sabres were 100 percent going to lose Taylor Hall in the offseason. With the trade they at least got something in return.
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