Ah name brand trade bait. There’s no ignoring it. Will better players than Taylor Hall be traded at the deadline? Will those players help their teams more than Taylor Hall? There’s a good chance that the answer to both of those questions are yes, but that doesn’t change that Taylor Hall is a former Hart Trophy winner, former 1st overall pick, and that adds a lot more interest to his availability. The fact that there’s now an official price attached to him doesn’t hurt either…
Hearing that the initial asking price for Taylor Hall involves a first-round pick… Probably going to be tough to get that in this buyer's market but it's the right place to start two weeks out if you're Buffalo. @TheAthletic @TSNHockey
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) March 26, 2021
So the general consensus is that the Sabres are reaching here. I’m not sure that was the belief even 24 hours ago that Hall for a 1st was too much, but through their own actions of trading Staal for a 3rd and 5th round selection, the market was more or less set. If Eric Staal’s 3 goals, 10 points in 32 games couldn’t net a 2nd round pick, and he has a cap hit under $4M that needed 50% retention, Hall’s $8M will need to be halved and his 2 goals and 17 points in 32 games might be worth a 2nd round pick at this point, since the reality is that no GM is going to let the Sabres improve the case for Hall using his tragic shooting percentage of 2.6% or his unheard of PDO of 92.4 to make a case that things just aren’t going his way. The fact of the matter is the majority of evidence shows that Hall is not that Hart Trophy caliber player most of the time, he’s much more of a 25 goal, 60 point guy if he can stay healthy kind of player. Which isn’t a bad thing, but when he’s underperforming to that and heading to unrestricted free agency, no one is paying a premium to bring him in.
That’s a pretty strong case for not giving up a first for Taylor Hall, but it’s probably worth noting that this isn’t a particularly strong draft year. It’s also a draft year that could see a number of solid OHL players available in later rounds because they’ve become complete shots in their abilities due to the possibility of going without a season all together or limited to a very short tournament situation. Giving up a first isn’t a huge deal this year if that’s what it takes to bring in a potential gamebreaker like Hall.
The other issue with Hall is that salary would need to come off the Leafs to make the move possible. The Leafs would either need to trade Alexander Kerfoot (either to Buffalo, or deal him in a separate transaction), trade Frederik Andersen (same conditions apply), or rely on a team like Chicago to acquire Hall with half his salary retained, and then retain 50% of that in a deal to Toronto (what the Leafs did with Robin Lehner last year and they received a 5th round pick as compensation.) The price might be higher for the Leafs, because it always is, but the perhaps that is the best course of action for the Leafs as they don’t run the risk of diluting their roster talent.
Heading into this season Hall looked to be one of the top wingers in the game, priced about right and while is individual outputs have suffered this year, his performance on ice and creation of scoring opportunities still make him a worthwhile option to consider. In all situations Hall’s player valuation this year is similar to that of Drake Batherson, Travis Konecny, or Tom Wilson’s. Looking exclusively at his 5v5 On Ice Play, he’s comparable to Conor Garland or Brayden Point. He has been gifted largely offensive situation usage, but no one has ever brought Taylor Hall in for his defense. He’s thriving where he’s supposed to thrive.
I guess what I’m saying is that under the right circumstance I’d be all over Taylor if I was in Dubas’ shoes. And if not now, I’d certainly be placing a call or two during the free agency period this summer. Hall represents a chance for the Leafs to swing for the fences this offseason, and even if there’s a slight overpayment, it’s a worthwhile gamble.
You’ve heard my side of it now. Now (politely) tell me I’m wrong in the comments below.