Buffalo Sabres: Pressure now on Taylor Hall to right his ship with trade imminent

Taylor Hall is going to have a rather big point to prove to his new team.

We’re less than a week out from the NHL Trade Deadline on April 12 and, with the Buffalo Sabres set to be major sellers, all eyes will be on Taylor Hall who will be one of the biggest prizes available, but the forward will need to show a lot more than he has as of late.

It has been a foregone conclusion for a while that the Sabres would pull the plug on their short-lived relationship with Hall come the Trade Deadline, and that now looks to be the case with the forward sat out of Buffalo’s game against the New Jersey Devils tonight out of precaution.

Interestingly enough, the Devils also decided to sit out right-wing Kyle Palmieri, as they did on Sunday, and it is almost certain that the two forwards will be on new teams by the time we get to 3:00 p.m. ET on Monday afternoon.

Back to Hall, however, and it seems as though it will be only a matter of time until the 29-year-old has himself yet another place to call home, and there will be plenty of interested parties with the likes of the Boston Bruins, the New York Islanders and the Toronto Maple Leafs all in need of an added offensive punch.

It won’t be that straightforward, though, given that the Sabres will likely need to retain a large chunk of Hall’s $8 million cap hit this season, and it remains to be seen what kind of return Buffalo General Manager Kevyn Adams will want for a player he signed to a one-year deal back in the offseason. Hall also has a full No-Move Clause, so he will have a say in where he ends up next.

Another reason why a trade for Taylor Hall is complicated is the fact that the uber-talented winger has seen his value plummet following a tough season with the worst team in the National Hockey League, and there is also plenty of risk for the team that decides to make the Sabres an offer they can’t refuse given recent history.

Taylor Hall (4)

Taylor Hall #4 of the Buffalo Sabres. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

On cusp of being traded, Taylor Hall will have a lot to prove to his new team

It wasn’t that long ago, although it feels like it thanks to this last year or so, that Taylor Hall won the Hart Trophy in 2017-18 after dragging the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 93 points (39 G, 54 A) in 76 games, establishing himself as a true star in the NHL.

However, a serious knee injury derailed his career somewhat and he missed most of the 2018-19 season, eventually returning for the 2019-20 season where he put up six goals and 19 assists for 25 points in 30 games before being traded to the Arizona Coyotes.

Hall did okay with the Yotes, recording 27 points (10 G, 17 A) in 35 regular-season contests, but he went cold in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with just two goals and four assists for six points in nine games, and he never really looked comfortable in Arizona.

As a result, the left-shot opted to head elsewhere in Free Agency and he shocked many by signing a one-year, $8 million deal with the Buffalo Sabres, seen by the front office as the perfect running mate for elite center Jack Eichel.

Taylor Hall (4)

Buffalo Sabres left wing Taylor Hall (4). Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

To say that things haven’t panned out in Buffalo would be a severe understatement, with Hall a -21 with just two goals and 17 assists for 19 points in 37 games, and it just hasn’t been a good fit with the Sabres enduring a historically bad year as they continue to lurch from one disaster to the next.

But, while the whole roster has stunk the building out after recently going on a franchise record 18-game winless streak, Hall really has struggled and he’s on pace for the worst season of his 12-year career in the NHL.

Not only that, but Hall is about to join his fourth team in three seasons and things just haven’t clicked for the right-wing for a while, and there could be concerns over whether he will ever be the same player again in the wake of that serious knee injury that ravaged his 2018-19 season.

Given how he looked in Arizona overall coupled with how things have panned out in Buffalo, you can’t blame some people for wondering if Taylor Hall is the problem given that he is the common denominator in all of this, but there will be a team out there willing to take a risk in order to load up ahead of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

And let’s not get confused here; Taylor Hall is still an incredibly talented hockey player with plenty still left in the tank and, when put in the right situation, there is no doubt that he has the skill-set needed to make a sizeable impact for a contender. However, given his recent history, there is no doubt that there will be some pressure on Taylor Hall to hit the ground running with his new team and contribute in a big way, because if he doesn’t then that could well lead to some hard questions about whether he’s still a top-level player in the NHL.