BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Sabres surprised the hockey world by inking top free agent winger Taylor Hall to a one-year, $8 million deal.
I know you’re immediately wondering why both sides decided on a one-year contract. When I asked Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams, he said that just because they did a one-year deal, it doesn’t mean that’s what the Sabres wanted.
“We’re hoping it will turn into a long-term relationship,” he said.
From Hall’s perspective, he’s said many times that Ralph Krueger is his favorite coach that he’s played for. Adams confirmed Krueger and Hall spoke a lot in the past two days.
Hall slumped this year in 65 games with New Jersey and Arizona. He’s never played with a dynamic center like Jack Eichel before, and it gives him an opportunity to get back to where he was when he won the Hart Trophy with the Devils.
There’s no doubt that having Eichel here played on Hall’s mind when he decided to come to Buffalo.
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun got this Sunday night from Krueger: “We are extremely pleased and proud that he picked the Sabres! The level of trust is very high between us so we can go right back to work.”
ESPN’s John Buccigross heard from Eichel: “Awesome signing!"
The season Hall was league MVP, he had 39 goals and 54 assists for 93 points. Last year he was injured, but was still on a 92-point pace when he went out for the season after just 33 games.
Hall knows the Sabres have to challenge for a playoff spot this year and this gives him an opportunity to see if the Sabres are a long-term fit.
I feel this gives the Sabres a line of Hall, Eichel and Sam Reinhart, followed by Jeff Skinner, Eric Staal and Victor Olofsson or Dylan Cozens.
Adams is taking a page out of the Brandon Beane/Sean McDermott book, looking for leaders and character. He used those words about Hall as well as his other free agent signings in Cody Eakin and Tobias Rieder.
For those hoping to get a goaltender, the Sabres aren’t going to have a lot of cap space once Reinhart, Olofsson and Ullmark are signed. I could easily see Adams trading one of these players to help with the crunch, Reinhart, Colin Miller, Rasmus Ristolainen or Brandon Montour. They would also have to trade Carter Hutton if they make a move on a goalie.
Adams sat down with the Pegulas before free agency and told them his plan to pursue Hall. They liked what they heard and gave him the go-ahead.
The payroll this season is going to be higher than they thought, but all involved felt this was the right thing for the organization.