Taylor Hall is one of the biggest fish available to nab heading into the 2021 Trade Deadline. Although I think the Los Angles Kings should be sellers come deadline day, pursuing him could be an interesting scenario and bolster the Kings on the wing, which is one of their weaker positions.
First and foremost, if the Kings were to attempt to acquire Hall, a contract agreement would need to be part of the deal. In the 2020 offseason, he inked a one-year deal worth $8 million to play for Buffalo. Although LA could make the playoffs, as they currently sit seven points out of the fourth playoff spot in the West Division with two games in hand over the fourth-place Arizona Coyotes, it would be a steep mountain to climb.
In 2019, Vegas acquired superstar Mark Stone from Ottawa at the trade deadline. That very same day, Vegas verbally agreed with him on a contract extension. Although the deal couldn’t officially be signed until March 1, 2019, it was officially signed just seven days afterwards.
Keeping that in mind, here’s why pursuing Hall could be an intriguing option for the Kings.
Is 2020-21 the “New” Hall?
Any team picking up Hall would be risking his 2020-21 season becoming the new normal. In 37 games played this season, he has scored a mere two goals and added 17 assists. This poses the question: is this how he will consistently play in the future or is it a product of playing for the abysmal Buffalo Sabres?
A deep dive into his numbers this season will indicate it’s the latter. This season, Hall has a measly 2.3 shooting percentage. He is completely snake-bitten. For perspective, his shooting percentages with his former teams are significantly higher. In six seasons with the Edmonton Oilers, he shot at 10.6%. His four-season tenure with New Jersey saw him shooting at 10.3%, while in Arizona his shooting percentage was 8.3%.
At five-on-five play, Hall has generated chances. Buffalo controls 51.08% of the scoring chances for (SCF%) with him on the ice. The Sabres have a high-danger scoring chances for (HDCF%) of 53.69% with him on the ice. Overall, this indicates that both Hall and his linemates are snake-bitten.
Another stat that supports this narrative is Buffalo’s Fenwick For (FF%) with him on the ice. Fenwick refers to any unblocked shot attempt (goals, shots on net and misses) outside of the shootout. While this statistic includes misses, which obviously aren’t good, the Sabres rock a 53.03 FF% with Hall skating, indicating they are generating more shot attempts than opponents when he is on the ice.
All of this underscores that Hall’s offensive numbers aren’t reflective of his play this season. He still commands and drives the play. His shooting percentage highlights how he is struggling to put the puck in the net, while the Sabres on-ice shooting percentage of 6.37% with him skating indicates his linemates can’t capitalize on chances he creates for them.
What Hall Can Be
Hall can be a difference-maker for any team, plain and simple. In 2017-18, he earned the Hart Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the player judged most valuable to his team. This accolade was well-earned. That season he scored 39 goals and dished 54 apples for a total of 93 points. The next best Devils in each of these categories were (the brackets with minus next to a number indicates how many less they had than him):
Michael Grabner: 27 goals (-12)
Will Butcher: 39 assists (-15)
Nico Hishier: 52 points (-41)
Hall’s offensive dominance in 2017-18 truly cemented his status as an elite player, and his play nearly single-handedly carried New Jersey into a playoff spot that season.
Subsequently, Hall once again demonstrated this game-changing ability in the qualifying round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Representing the Coyotes, who barely squeaked into the qualifying round as the 11th seed in the Western Conference, his play helped them upset Nashville. He played heavy minutes in the series, averaging the most playing time among Yotes forwards. He notched one goal and three assists in the four-game series, helping Arizona steal a playoff spot. However, he did lots of little things that don’t appear on the scoresheet.
At the 0:17 mark of this clip, Hall gathers the puck, flies through the neutral zone and past the Predators defense, takes a shot, gets his own rebound, dishes the puck to the Niklas Hjalmarsson at the point, and Christian Dvorak scores by tipping in the shot Hjalmarsson hammered from the point. Hall frequently glides through the neutral zone with ease during this series, terrorizing the Predators’ blue line.
At the 1:50 mark, Nashville scores on a three-on-two (it later was waved off for an offside). Hall utilizes his speed coming off of the Coyotes bench to nearly catch up to Kyle Turris. Although unsuccessful at stopping this shot, he often prevented goals in this series through his tenacious backchecking. At the 4:13 mark, Hall scores a power-play marker to put the game out of reach for Nashville.
Hall has game-changing ability that could be shown once again in a different uniform.
The Kings Have Lacked a Top Line Left-Winger
For the past few seasons, the Kings have lacked a “true” first-line left winger. In 2017-18, the Kings’ top left winger was Tanner Pearson. His average time on ice (TOI) was 15:58, and he produced 40 points. Not too shabby, but the Kings’ top center, Anze Kopitar hit 93 points and their top right winger (Dustin Brown) had 61 points. In 2018-19, the Kings brought in Ilya Kovalchuk in an attempt to fix the issue, however, he had 34 points in 64 games before becoming a frequent healthy scratch.
In 2019-20, Alex Iafallo cemented himself as the team’s top left-winger putting up 43 points, ranking second on the team in the category. This season, he has 23 points, both of which are respectable totals, but do not scream “first-line winger.”
If the Kings were to add Hall, he would instantly boast LA’s legitimacy in the winger department. Alongside Kopitar and Brown, he could help form a dynamic first line.
If the Price Is Right
Hall has struggled this season. He has just two goals and 19 points. This means Buffalo shouldn’t be fetching a king’s ransom for him. The Kings should only even contemplate this move if no first-round pick is involved. A potential deal could be something along the lines of:
To Buffalo: Iafallo; a second round pick; a fourth rounder; and a mid-tier prospect (none of the big names like Quinton Byfield or Alex Turcotte).
To Los Angeles: Hall
In this deal, Buffalo acquires a potentially top second-round pick, a fourth, and a mid-tier prospect. Iafallo and Hall are both unrestricted free agents following this season, meaning LA gets a chance icing a team with a true number one left-handed winger, while Buffalo gets a serviceable top-six forward.
Finally, adding Hall would be an interesting option for the Kings and could help the team become more competitive this season and in the future.
I am a lifelong hockey fan who will be covering the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks here at The Hockey Writers. Before joining The Hockey Writers I spent two years blogging about hockey.
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