Taylor Hall is teaming up with Jack Eichel in Buffalo.
The top forward on the 2020 free-agent market, and arguably top prize overall, has signed a one-year, $8-million deal with the Sabres.
Hall’s deal, originally reported by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, has since been confirmed by the team.
“I certainly hope that the players and coaches and our staff and the organization are excited, and our fans are excited,” Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams said in a video conference Sunday.
“This is a great step. But we’re in a position right now where we have to go earn it. We have to go get better every day.”
Adams explained the short-term contract doesn’t preclude the two sides agreeing to a lengthier deal next off-season.
“We believe in Taylor as a player and a person, and we hope this turns into a long-term relationship for both sides that works,” he said. “We’ll see where that goes.”
The former Hart Trophy winner put up 52 points in 65 games split between the New Jersey Devils and Arizona Coyotes in 2019-20. The star left-winger was sent from New Jersey to Arizona, along with forward Blake Speers, last December in exchange for a 2020 conditional first-round draft pick, a conditional 2021 third-rounder and forward prospects Nate Schnarr, Nick Merkley and defenceman Kevin Bahl.
The 28-year-old’s seven-year, $42-million contract signed with the Edmonton Oilers in 2012 expired with the start of the off-season.
Hall, who was selected by the Oilers with the top pick in the 2010 draft, has racked up 563 points across 627 NHL games, appearing in two all-star games and finishing in the top-10 in league scoring in three seasons (2012-13, 2013-14 and 2017-18).
Former Oilers coach and current Sabres bench boss Ralph Krueger, who was an assistant during Hall’s rookie season in Edmonton and head coach in the 2012-13 lockout-shortened season, played an integral role in bringing the star to Buffalo.
“I think the way that Ralph had built a relationship with Taylor previously, absolutely played a big role in this,” Adams said.
“I know they spent quite a bit of time over the last few days talking. That to me is what’s critical in this, that we got to a place on both sides that there was a comfort level and we all wanted the same thing.”
Hall’s time in Edmonton came to an end with the infamous one-for-one deal for defenceman Adam Larsson that sent him to the Devils during the 2016 off-season.
His best campaign came in his second season in New Jersey (2017-18) as he captured the league’s MVP award and helped an upstart Devils squad to their first playoff appearance in six seasons. His 93 points in 76 games that year were the sixth-best total in the NHL.
Hall, who has only made the post-season twice in his career, will be looking to help a talented but enigmatic Sabres team, which boasts Eichel and 2018 top pick Rasmus Dahlin, snap a playoff drought spanning nine straight campaigns. It’s a streak of futility that prompted Eichel to say that he was “fed up with the losing” after the club finished 13th in the Eastern Conference last season and failed to make the cut for the NHL’s return to play from its COVID-19 hiatus.
In the off-season, the Sabres fired general manager Jason Botterill and much of his staff and scouts, and he was replaced by Adams. Adams has already attempted to upgrade his second line by acquiring veteran centre Eric Staal in a trade with Minnesota last month.
The Sabres entered free agency about $26 million under the NHL’s salary $81.5 million cap, and are currently projected to have about $14 million of space available following Hall’s addition
With files from The Associated Press