Eastern Edge: Examining the new situations for Hall, Smith, and Gustafsson

Brennan Des

2020-10-13

In this week's Eastern Edge, we'll look at a few of the recent free agent signings from a fantasy perspective. The Dobber team has done an amazing job of breaking down these moves as soon as they happen, so be sure to check the website's front page for instant analysis of the latest free agent signings and trades! A lot of moves have been made already, so leave a comment if there's a particular situation you want me to take a closer look at in future articles!

 

Taylor Hall

To the surprise of many, Hall signed a one-year contract with the Sabres for $8 million. I think most people assumed that he was looking to join a playoff contender after being starved of playoff hockey for most of his career. However, the opportunity to play with Jack Eichel, under the guidance of coach Ralph Krueger (whom also coached Hall in Edmonton), proved tempting enough for the 28-year-old winger to sign in Buffalo. I personally think this is a pretty smart move on Hall's part. He gets to play alongside Eichel, which should help him rack up the points and boost his value, ultimately resulting in an even bigger salary on his next contract. Given that logic, I think a large part of convincing Hall to sign with the Sabres involved the assurance that he was going to play on a line with Eichel. So, to kick off next season, Buffalo's top line should consist of Hall, Eichel and one of Sam Reinhart, Victor Olofsson, or Jeff Skinner. While this isn't great news for two of those three wingers that don't get to play with Eichel, the second line should be much better this year than it has been in years past, now that Eric Staal is centering it.

The idea of a Hall-Eichel duo has most hockey fans drooling – and for good reason. Eichel has evolved into a superstar over the past few seasons, with his point-per-game production consistently improving over the last three years (0.96, 1.06, 1.15). Eichel's offensive output has been so impressive because it came without the support of a complementary 'superstar' – he doesn't rely on other players to help him tally points, he makes those around him better. We saw Jeff Skinner score 40 goals beside Eichel in 2018-2019, only to fall below the 20-goal mark in 2019-2020 when he was no longer playing with Eichel. I think Hall is the most offensively-gifted winger that Eichel has ever played with, and it's likely that the two players are able to achieve new heights together that they were unable to achieve individually. From a fantasy perspective, I think Hall signing in Buffalo should boost the fantasy value of