Taylor Hall's days as a New Jersey Devil appear to be numbered. It seemingly is all over but the shouting.
The former NHL is playing in his fourth season with the Devils. Hall has scored 72 goals for the Devils, 51 of which have come at even strength.
“I think the Devils now know it’s unlikely they are going to be able to get a contract done during the year,” said Elliotte Friedman on Saturday night.
“I think it’s up to Ray Shero who is going to have to decide what the Devils’ course of action here is going to be, because I think it’s very unlikely he agrees to sign with them during the year.”
Hall, who turns 28 years old next week, is playing on an expiring contract and is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Hall's contract counts as $6 million annual average value. Devils management has been hopeful that Hall would agree to signing a long term contract extension to remain a Devil.
Not so fast. Hall's agent Darren Ferris met with Devils management in Calgary on Thursday. Friedman notes that Ferris' modus operandi for the contract negotiations of his clients is to play stall ball and kill the proverbial clock before taking his shot. Ferris is a deadline hunter.
“His (Ferris') history is he tells his clients ‘I don’t believe you should sign until as late as possible so you can get an idea of what the true market is for your services’ and I have no reason to believe that his advice to Taylor Hall is any different in this particular situation,” Friedman said.
The Devils can ill afford to lose Hall to the unrestricted free agency market with zero compensation. This is why Hall will be traded in the near future. Shero can tell his fan base that he tried to get a contract extension done with Hall but the two sides could not agree to terms. The Devils are a losing team with Hall. They lack two key elements that all greal NHL have in spades:
A rock solid seven man D corps and competent goaltending.
Trading Hall today would give the Devils access to a difference making defenseman and oerhaps an upgrade t otheir goaltending.
Today, the Devils find themselves in 29th place in the NHL standing and one point out of the Eastern Conference basement with just 12 points in 15 games played.
The Devils have allowed 60 goals against in 16 games played which is 15th in the Eastern Conference. Their -20 goal differential ranks them second to last in the Eastern Conference. The Devils are 15th in the East with 40 goal goals scored.
This is not a winning hockey team. There still is much work to be doone to restore the Devils to
Despite the early season quagmire in the Meadowlands, Taylor Hall has been full value scoring recorded two goals and 12 assists in 15 games this season. When a premiere players averages nerly a point a game on a bad hockey team, it increases his trade value.
A change will do Hall and the Devils a lot of good.
Trading Hall for a package of assets that includes a difference making defenseman appears to be the best course of action for Ray Shero and the Devils.
The Buffalo Sabres have the currency that the Devils are in need of.
The Sabres have abundance of defenseman, defensive prospects and a second round draft choice. New Jersey doesn't have a 2020 second round pick.
Losers of six of their last seven games, the Sabres are badly in need of an experienced top six forward who can add immediate even strength goal scoring. The Sabres were swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the NHL Global Series games in Stockholm, Sweden on Friday and Saturday.
The losses to the Bolts illuminated a growing concern for the Sabres which is to say, their once explosive power play has cooled off in the past seven games (2 for their last 22) and they lack consistency in their even strength goal scoring.
The Sabres have scored 32 goals at 5v5, which is tied for 15th in the NHL. Despite it's current slumber period, the power play is 5th in the NHL at (17 games, 14 for 56) 25% success rate.
The Sabres will not play again until Thursday when they kick off an important three games in four nights trek at home against the Carolina Hurricanes. They will host the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night and then head out to the highway for a game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sundday night.
Buffalo desperately needs to earn all six points this week to anchor their eighth place seed in the Eastern standings. The Eastern Conference standings are beginning to constrict. The contenders are excuses themselves from the group of pretenders. Each point that is left on the table from here on out will no doubt be a huge regret when the regular season ends in April.
It is a huge concern that Ralph Krueger's team has failed to earn at least one point in the four games its has played in the month of November. The last point the Sabres earned was a loser point in the 3-2 shootout loss to the Arizona Coyotes on October 28.
It's been two weeks since they earned a point. Granted, their last four losses have come at the hands of three excellent hockey teams in the Washington Capitals, NY Islanders, and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Close, but no cigar.
Experienced opponents have studied the tendencies of the Sabres power play and have figured out how defend against the Olofsson and Eichel one-timers from the dots
If the Sabres are serious about earning a berth in the Stanley Cup playoffs, they must commit to making a trade that will add immediate consistent scoring value to their nightly lineup.
Wishing and hoping and praying for a player not name Eichel, Reinhart, or Skinner to score an even strength goal can be very frustrating for Sabres coaches, management and fans alike. Skinner leads the Sabres with 7 EV goals, Reinhart has 6, and Eichel has scored 4.
The Sabres need more even strength goal scoring from all of their forwards and D. You can never have enough even strength goal scoring. Your power play can't pay the bar tab forever.
Eventually, good teams figure out how to solve the best power play schemes in the NHL.
Making adjustments is what separates the good teams from the great teams.
In Saturday's loss to the Bolts, Victor Olofsson finally scored his first even strength goal of his NHL career. Prior to that achievement, Olofsson had scored all 8 of his career goals in 22 games that spanned last and this season. Olofsson plays top line responsibilites with Eichel and Reinhart and is expected to contribute even strength goal scoring. I'm confident that he will now that he has broken on through to the other side of the scoring ledger. The bigger issue for the Sabres and their lack of EV goal scoing is: where are the even strength goals from Jimmy Vesey (0), Evan Rodrigues (0), Conor Sheary (2), Casey Mittelstadt (2), Marcus Johansson (3), Kyle Okposo (1), Zemgus Girgensons (1), Johan Larsson (1).
Short term changes are coming to the Buffalo forward group. Vlad Sobotka suffered a serious knee injury was he was knocked out of Friday's game by a cowardly, deliberate low-bridge hit by Nikita Kucherov. Sobotka will be evaluated by Sabres team orthopedic specialists when the team arrives back in Buffalo from Stockholm on Monday. Kucherov should have been suspended for sewering Sobotka. No panalty called on the play because teh eight eyes on the ice "didn't see it".
I see Jason Botterill promoting Tage Thompson from AHL Rochester to replace Sobotka. Thompson, the last cut from Sabres training camp leads the Amerks witth 6G,6A in 13 games played this season.
Adding Thompson will help the offense slightly. However, the Sabres need more production from a veteran sniper like Taylor Hall, Tyler Toffoli or Jonathon Droiun.
I have been telling you for months that the Devils, Kings and Canadiens continue to scout the Sabres. Don't forget the Jets, Ducks, Oilers, Wild, Flames, Blues, Avalanche, Penguins and Coyotes as other prominent NHL franchises who have frequently sent management and scouts to watch the Sabres play live at home and on the road.
The Sabres have the healthiest D corps that they have had all season long. Soon Marco Scandella will be healthy. Scandella didn't travel with his teammates to Stockholm as he remained in Buffalo to rehab his slower body injured sustained on October 24. Zach Bogosian is back to skating after his offseason hip surgery. The Sabres will not rush Bogosian back to the lineup. He will play when the time is right and not a moment sooner.
Today, Botterill has 8 health defensemen in Buffalo and two are mending from their injuries. They are:
Down the road in Rochester, the Sabres have an NHL-ready defensemen in Will Borgen and Casey Nelson as well as prospect D Casey Fitzgerald and Jacob Bryson.
The hottest item on every NHL GM's holiday list this season is capable, puck moving defensemen which Botterill has a warehouse full of right now.
Botterill has said on several occasions he is open to making a trade or two to bolster his offense. However, the trade(s) must be dollars-in-dollars-out. In other words, he can be creative if the dollars even out.
Are Botterill and Shero talking trades? Yes. They are talking trades.
Why wouldn't they?
Each man manages a team that is not satisfied with its current performances.
Shero gave Botterill his shot as an NHL assistant general amanager in Pittsburgh. The two men have smoked cigars and sipped champagne together from Lord Stanley's Cup. Shero has a friend and trusted confidant in Botterill. Dealing Hall to Buffalo makes sense because Botterill isn't looking to take advanatage of Shero. Unlike other vulture GMs looking to get over on Shero, the Sabres would trade premium assets to the Devils for Hall.
I continue to see two different Devils scouts taking notes and assessing Sabres players. I see other NHL teams with multiple scouts and front office types at games all the time. I know who they are and what types of players they are looking for.
Trading for Hall's $6 million contract is plausible for the Sabres so long as the Devils accept Marco Scandella's $4 million contract along with Conor Sheary's $3M AAV (Sheary played for Shero with Penguins) or Evan Rodrigues' $2M AAV. Buffalo would also be including a second round pick in 2020 which the Devils currently lack. Prospect defenseman Casey Fitzgerald would be the deal sweetener considering his father, Tom, his Ray Shero's assistant general manager with the Devils.
They host the Devils on 12/2.
One week from today, the Sabres travel to Chicago for game number 20 of their 2019-20 season. The 20-game point in the season when NHL GMs begin to make their roster additions and subtractions.
The Sabres' schedule is going to be compressed moving forward.
The Sabres will be in Chicago that day. From November 18 to November 30, the Sabres will play a daunting seven games in thirteen days. During the grinding stretch, the Sabres will face the Wild (home), Bruins (away), Panthers (away), Lightning (away), Flames (home). The Sabres will cap off the November with a home-and-home with the Maple Leafs which kicks off in Buffalo on Black Friday. The Sabres will host the Devils on December 2.
Will the Sabres still be in the top eight group in the Eastern Conference when Black Friday comes?
Jason Botterill might want to call Ray Shero and make a deal for Taylor Hall. Today.