Taylor Hall was one of the best players available in NHL free agency.
So, how did he end up with the Buffalo Sabres on a one-year contract worth $8 million?
The 2010 No. 1 overall pick explained his decision Monday during a video conference with reporters.
“We hopped on a call and (Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger) talked about the Sabres, and he talked about the city of Buffalo, and he talked about what their plans were and where I would fit in, and really that put the bug in my head right off the bat,” Hall said, looking back on last Friday’s start of free agency. “From there, obviously, I fielded other offers and took the time to talk to other teams, but in the back of my head, I always knew that that would be a good situation. If it came down to it that I wanted to do a one-year contract, it was appealing to me. And even before free agency, Buffalo was a place that I had told my agent, Darren Ferris, that I would think about playing there, it would be something that I think would be enjoyable, and I’m really glad that we’re here.”
Hall, who’ll turn 29 next month, is coming off an up-and-down season with the New Jersey Devils and Arizona Coyotes in which he totaled 16 goals and 36 assists for 52 points in 65 games.
Still, he’s an impact forward, evidenced by him earning the Hart Memorial Trophy in 2018 as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player after posting 39 goals and 54 assists for 93 points with New Jersey.
Hall was linked to several teams in rumors ahead of free agency, with the Boston Bruins even floated as a potential landing spot. But the market ended up looking much different than once projected, leading to a one-year deal that will allow Hall to reassess his options next offseason.
“To start off with, we knew it would be a unique marketplace coming into free agency, and once free agency started, I think that we were made aware pretty quickly at how much things had changed and how COVID had affected a lot of different things,” Hall said Monday. “So it kind of changed our decision-making from there. It went from wanting to get a six- or seven-year contract to thinking, ‘Hey, maybe a one-year deal might be best for me financially and personally,’ and then we can see what the landscape of the NHL and really just the whole U.S. and Canada looks like after that.
“When we started thinking, ‘OK, one year might be the best play,’ a situation just like Buffalo was something that was appealing to me. And when I sat down with my agent and I talked to my dad and people close to me, it started making more and more sense. And I think when you break it down and you have an open mind about things and you’re able to look past the smoke that’s surrounded the Sabres the past couple of years, I think you see a team that has elite players, ownership that’s really committed to building a winner — I’ve seen what they’ve done with the (Buffalo) Bills — and a coach that I feel can get a lot out of his players. And on a one-year contract, I think both sides are eager to see how this works out, and there’s obviously a lot of possibilities for the future.”
Hall, a Calgary native, spent his first six seasons with the Edmonton Oilers before being traded to the Devils. He’s currently living in Toronto, which he acknowledged also factored into his free agency decision.