Fantasy Take: Hall Picks… Buffalo?
The Buffalo Sabres have signed left wing Taylor Hall to a one-year contract with an $8 million cap hit.
The Sabres get:
Hall, the 2010 first overall pick, 2018 Hart Trophy winner, and draft lottery good luck charm, who will be joining his fourth NHL team. His 2019-20 production (52 points in 65 games, 0.8 PTS/GP) was his lowest in three seasons, but he is undoubtedly one of the biggest prizes of this year's free agency period.
Fantasy players impacted:
The immediate question is, why Buffalo? Hall has played a grand total of 14 postseason games over his 10-year career, and nine of those came with the Coyotes in their return to play. You would think he'd be interested in hooking up with a contender with some cap space (eg. Colorado). The Sabres have not made the playoffs/postseason in nine seasons, and they will be in tough yet again.
However, COVID-19 has changed things for everyone. A flat cap has handcuffed teams, so the market for Hall is more limited than it would be normally. Even though Buffalo has a cap hit for Jack Eichel of $10 million per season, Jeff Skinner for $9 million per season, and Kyle Okposo for $6 million per season, they still have oodles of cap space to make this move. If Hall isn't satisfied with the Sabres, the one-year contract means that he can more easily move on to a contender when teams are hopefully in a better financial position. A no-move clause and a no-trade clause seem curious if you consider that Hall might want to be traded to a contender at the deadline, but it at least gives him a ton of control over where he goes.
In spite of the Sabres' rebuilding status, there isn't much downside to them doing this. A lot of things would have to go right, but Hall could be what they need to finally break their playoff drought. If they're still stuck below the playoff bar, then they can attempt to trade Hall by the deadline for an abundant haul of draft picks/prospects. And they didn't need to move assets to acquire him. At the very least, the Hall acquisition signals to Eichel that they are serious about moving up the standings (although a new goalie would also help). As well, the Sabres will have time to sell Hall on Buffalo as a more long-term home, which he may seriously consider because he made the choice to sign there in the first place.
One other angle: Sabres coach Ralph Krueger coached Hall when Krueger was the Oilers coach for one season (2012-13).
Once we get past the "why," the obvious beneficiary is Eichel. He finished 28 points clear of the Sabres' second-leading scorer, so there's a clear opportunity for him to challenge for the scoring race. The arrangement could be mutually beneficial for Hall, as neither the Coyotes nor the New Jersey Devils currently possess a scorer like Eichel. Move both Hall and Eichel up in your 2020-21 fantasy draft rankings.
A possible top 6 would look like this:
Hall-Eichel- Sam Reinhart
Olofsson would obviously be moved off the top line, but he could switch to right wing to accommodate Skinner on the second line. Yet this acquisition reduces the likelihood that Skinner will play on the Eichel line, and it could also mean that Skinner (or possibly Olofsson) isn't on the first-unit power play either. Staal is a better center than the other options that the Sabres used on lines 2-4 in 2019-20, which should make for a softer landing for Skinner if he's still not on the top line. Still, the Sabres are on the hook for $9 million per season for seven more seasons of Skinner, so you'd think they'd be more proactive in using him with Eichel.
Hall's most frequent linemate in Arizona was Christian Dvorak, who won't have a scorer of Hall's upside to replace him. Having said that, Dvorak is on an upward trajectory and could be leaned on more heavily for the 2020-21 version of the Coyotes.
Fantasy players this helps, in order:
Sam Reinhart (if he stays on the Eichel line)
Rasmus Dahlin (power play)
Fantasy players this hurts, in order:
Fantasy owners are already discussing this signing in the Forum – give your take here!
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