Every year the NHL has a class of free agents hit the market but this year possibly presents the most unique experience for every GM. Until this year, every General Manager knew how much room he would have under the cap to retool his team. This year, with so many questions regarding cap space, the idea of a new round of compliance buyouts, and the looming Seattle expansion draft, many GM’s will be left working from a disadvantage. Even with these factors in play, the elite players will always get their money and term and this year is no exception. There are many teams desperate to upgrade their top-six forwards and Taylor Hall is one of the very few wingers who can drive a line.
While a combination of injuries and spending his entire career on subpar teams have prevented Hall from achieving his potential he has always driven possession with a career CF% of 56.0. This has many teams eager to add him but how many have a real opportunity is a very good question.
Three Teams Who Could Fit Taylor Hall
- Taylor Hall, like so many before him, has reached the point in his career where what is most important is his legacy. This is followed closely by his desire to play for a team that is truly competitive year after year. This would include teams that appear to be on the cusp of contention as well as some perennial performers. However, this would eliminate many teams who always seem to be on the outside looking in no matter what they do. Even if these teams have the available cap space.
- The team needs to have the top-line left wing spot available. This likely eliminates some teams such as the Colorado Avalanche as they are not looking to replace Mikko Rantanen anytime soon.
- The team needs to either have the cap space or the ability to create the cap space.
While it is true that the Buffalo Sabres have been inept with a nine-year playoff absence, there is a lot to like here for Taylor Hall. For the last two years, the Sabres have started hot and looked like a team destined to be in the postseason. Only to fall flat on their faces after Christmas. Adding a veteran of Halls calibre to the wing of Jack Eichel is good for both of them. Eichel is driven to win and the addition of Hall would be a great sign from management.
Buffalo will have a lot of flexibility under the cap with a number of bigger ticket contracts such as Michael Frolik ($4.3M) and Jimmy Vesey ($2.275M) expiring. They also have some contracts that are easily tradeable. A defencemen such as Colin Miller or Rasmus Ristolainen are easily moved if required.
Hall, like many Edmonton Oilers players from the time, also has a positive relationship with head coach Ralph Krueger. After so many different coaches going back to one with an existing good relationship is a great start.
The Dallas Stars is an intriguing destination but it would require some very creative work from GM Jim Nill to make room. They would need to work around the gross overpay last year of aging and declining Joe Pavelski. However, the thought of Hall replacing the aging Jamie Benn on the first line alongside Tyler Seguin is incredibly enticing. Combining the top two picks from the 2010 draft would certainly sell a lot of tickets. Dallas has shown a willingness to spend to the cap and they have rock-solid goaltending, a very good defensive core build around John Klingberg and 2019 rookie phenom Miro Heiskanen, and as a sweetener, a very lucrative tax position.
Unfortunately, Dallas has invested a lot of money into an aging forward core that is no longer returning value equivalent to their salary. While some say that the experienced players like Pavelski bring to the room are worth the cost, paying $7M a year for 31 points in 67 games leaves the team in a very bad spot going forward. They do have $6 coming off the books from the expiring contracts of Mattias Janmark, Radek Faksa, and Corey Perry but Nill would have to look at packaging up a draft pick to move along a contract like Andrew Cogliano ($3.25M) to make some room.
While this type of deal would benefit Dallas immediately, they would be gambling on business returning to normal for next year. This would be needed to ensure the cap once again rises year over year to allow them to absorb the extensions of Heiskanen and Jason Dickinson when they come up.
The Nashville Predators could be the dark horse team to watch. Although Matt Duchene was a disappointment as a free agent signing last year this is a team built to win now. They have one of best defense cores in the league and they just seem to be lacking that one puzzle piece to push them over the top.
Nashville enjoys a few luxuries in the chase for Hall that no one else can boast. Every key piece on their team is locked up long term and with the contracts of Mikael Granlund ($5.75M) and Craig Smith ($4.25M) coming off the books they have enough money potentially available that they will be able to absorb the hit of both Roman Josi‘s new deal as well as a contract for Hall. The final piece to make this work would likely involve the buying out of Kyle Turris for a savings of $4M a year. Buying out a contract so soon after signing it may be a hard sell to ownership.
There has been a long of speculation around the final landing spot of Taylor Hall will be. There have been many cities thrown around online but these are the ones I would be incredibly surprised at should they sign him.
Of course, this is a fun idea as the combination of Hall and Leon Draisaitl was electric in their limited time together but the idea that Hall would try to “go home again” where there is already so much history is difficult to imagine.
Adding fuel to the fire that is the Battle Of Alberta with Hall appearing with the Calgary Flames is certainly an appealing thought to any hockey fan but Calgary would appear to be a bad fit. They already have Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk locked up as their first and second line left-wing and barring a trade out of town for Johnny Hockey, which is not going to be changing.
Many believe that the Arizona Coyotes must re-sign Hall. Add to this head coach Rick Tocchet insisting that Hall wants to stay in Arizona. It remains hard to imagine a scenario where they present the most appealing offer. Injury-riddled goaltending, an average at best defense core, and a forward group that lacks any elite talent with the exception of Clayton Keller and potentially up-and-comer Barrett Hayton cannot be that enticing to a player of Hall’s level. And while Phil Kessel was once elite, it appears he has settled comfortably into semi-retirement in the desert.
Hall will almost certainly be heading for a change of scenery this offseason. While there will be many in the mix it is not a decision Hall will be taking lightly. The three teams above all give him a good chance to finally experience playoff success and to cement his legacy in the sport.