A decade later, Taylor Hall is a member of the Boston Bruins after all.
The Bruins early Monday morning put the finishing touches on a trade with the Buffalo Sabres, acquiring Hall and Curtis Lazar for forward Anders Bjork and a 2021 second-round draft pick.
It’s a big move on name value alone, with Boston acquiring the 2018 Hart Trophy winner. Hall, of course, also went No. 1 overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft to the Edmonton Oilers, one pick before the Bruins took Tyler Seguin with the second pick.
Landing Hall now, nearly 11 years later, doesn’t come with quite the same amount of fanfare. That the Sabres were willing to give him up for a second-round pick and a bottom-six forward tells you what the market was for Hall. But that’s not to say it can’t be an effective move for the Bruins.
At his best, Hall is a wonderfully gifted playmaker. His 2017-18 season, in which he won the Hart after scoring a career-high 39 goals with the New Jersey Devils, is the outlier. He only lit the lamp 29 times in the 175 games since then, so he’s not the most gifted goal-scorer.
What Hall lacks in scoring touch, though, he makes up for in other areas of his offensive game. He’s a gifted skater, who can fly up and down the ice. His explosiveness simply can’t be taught. Hall doesn’t necessarily fit the Bruins’ system of getting it in deep and cycling in the offensive zone, but maybe that’s a positive. The obvious hope for Boston is Hall can provide a shot to the arm for a team that has been a little stuck in neutral lately.
Hall has just two goals and 17 assists in 37 games this season, numbers that don’t exactly jump off the page. But you also have to consider the situation. Buffalo has been historically bad, and it just didn’t work with Hall. Inserting him into the Bruins’ lineup, however, might unlock some of that offensive potential he has displayed for most of his career.
Just where Hall ends up in the Bruins’ lineup will be a fascinating question for head coach Bruce Cassidy to answer. A left-handed shot, Hall is a natural left-wing option in the Bruins’ top six. Brad Marchand currently rides shotgun with Patrice Bergeron on the top line, but Hall’s best fit might be on the second line anyway. Hall would give second-line center David Krejci an offensive player he’s really never had alongside him for his entire Bruins career. Krejci fits well within the Bruins’ system, of course, but he’s also an offensively creative player, who could really rejuvenate Hall.
Krejci’s passing alone should help improve Hall’s ridiculously low 2.3 percent shooting percentage, which is a far cry from the 10 percent number for the rest of his career.
Here’s just one possibility of Boston’s top three lines after this deal:
Brad Marchand — Patrice Bergeron — David Pastrnak
Taylor Hall — David Krejci — Craig Smith
Nick Ritchie — Charlie Coyle — Jake DeBrusk
Not bad, right? And obviously there are myriad combinations for Cassidy, a noted line tinkerer.
The best part about this deal for the Bruins, though, is the price. Bjork had plenty of opportunities to stick and never quite made it work (more ice time in Buffalo could help). And to only part with a second-round pick in this market — Nick Foligno netted a first-round pick — certainly is palpable. Hall is only a rental, but if this thing hits right, maybe there’s a long-term match to be made, especially given the contracts set to come off the books this summer. And don’t sleep on Lazar, a nice depth piece with term on his contract.
That Boston was able to make this deal and get the Sabres to retain half of Hall’s remaining money is gravy. It’s a low-risk move from just about every angle, and the potential for it to be an absolute steal is there.
This move signifies general manager Don Sweeney, president Cam Neely and the rest of the Bruins believe this is a team in which they can still invest. It’s clear they are gearing up for one last run with this core, with contracts like Krejci and Tuukka Rask set to expire after the season.
Cassidy now has no shortage of top-six options, and for a team that needed some help in that area, Hall — with a change of scenery — definitely makes the Bruins better now than they were Sunday night following an ugly loss to Washington.