BUFFALO, N.Y. — When Taylor Hall spoke on Monday afternoon you could tell the Sabres were high on his list and not just a consolation prize. Hall said he told his agent even before free agency started that he’d consider Buffalo because he thought it would enjoyable.
Now, many might be thinking what about not making the playoffs in nine years is enjoyable? Hall of course is excited about playing on a team with Jack Eichel and admitted that played into his decision, but so did his former coach in Edmonton Ralph Krueger. They started talking as soon as free agency started and Hall noticed how passionate Krueger is about the city and the team. He said he had never seen that in Ralph before.
Hall took notice of the Sabres from afar. He was a part of a New Jersey team that got pasted by the Sabres last October 7-2 in the home opener.
He said, “I saw the team hire Ralph and I saw the team started well and it didn’t work out, but I think Buffalo is a team whether guys realize it or not everyone around the league pulls for them. It’s a good city, they have passionate fans that’s starving for a winning team,”
Hall added that he’s betting the Sabres are going to have an improved season. He said, “I truly believe that. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here.”
Hall said that there were multi-year deals on the table from other teams, but after he talked with teams, he realized that COVID-19 is affecting what teams do and that maybe a six or seven-year deal wouldn’t be such a good idea this year. He said that once he decided on a one-year deal, Buffalo became more appealing. He said the Sabres never offered him a long-term contract. He said one and two-year deals were on the table from the Sabres.
I think Hall came off very well when speaking with the media. He seemed very sincere to me in what he said about Buffalo and its fans. He mentioned more than once that he wants this to go well and turn into a long-term thing. He understands after a below average season last year, this contract is what he called a “show-me” deal.
He talked about having Eichel here along with Rasmus Dahlin. He also brought up Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner, who he works out with in Toronto. He thinks this team has the pieces to get better and he wants to play in Buffalo for a good long time. The skeptics of course will say "of course he said that, that’s what you say when you go to a new team," but to me he seemed very sincere while talking.
Hall will become the sixth NHL first-overall pick to play with the Sabres. The others were Rasmus Dahlin, Pierre Turgeon, Dale Hawerchuk, Dale McCourt and Gil Perreault.
The Sabres have some flexibility with Victor Olofsson able to switch to the right wing. I’ll give you what I think the Sabres line should look like, but it will be different from what Ralph Krueger will do. Remember he likes to have a grinder with each line.
By the way if I were Casey Mittelstadt I’d sign my qualifying offer. As of right now there’s no spot for him in the lineup and he needs to go to Rochester and show this team that he can be a NHL player. He hasn’t even come close to that yet.