The newest Buffalo Sabre met with the media via video conference on Monday afternoon, as Taylor Hall discussed what led him to choose Buffalo as his landing spot. Hall mentioned his previous relationship with Buffalo head coach Ralph Krueger as something that attracted him, while also discussing his confidence in the Sabres as a whole, and specifically his eagerness to begin playing with Jack Eichel.
On Friday night, discussions between Hall and the Sabres began to heat up when Hall fielded a call from his old coach, and current Sabres coach Krueger, who Hall says introduced the idea of playing in Buffalo.
“He talked about the Sabres, the city, what the team’s plans were and where I would fit in. That put the bug in my head right off the bat,” said Hall about his conversation with Krueger. “From there, I fielded other offers and took time to talk to other teams, but in the back of my head, I always knew (Buffalo presented a) good situation.”
Hall previously played for Krueger in Edmonton, where Krueger was an assistant during Hall’s rookie season then later spent the lockout-shortened ‘12-’13 season as Oilers’ head coach.
“Ralph is a very interesting human being. He is so diversified in his intersts and how he talks to people,” said Hall “In 2020, a coach like him has the greatest chance of connecting to his players and making people better.”
Many believed Hall would search for a long-term deal with more of an instant contender before free agency began. However, once he dipped his toe into the free-agent pool, Hall says things worked out differently than expected, leading him and his representation to change their approach.
“Once free agency started, we were made aware how much COVID had affected a lot of different things, and we changed our decision making from there,” said Hall. “We went from wanting a six to seven-year contract to thinking maybe a one-year deal might be best financially and personally, and then we can see the landcape of the NHL and what the whole (United States) and Canada looks like after that.”
While a one-year deal with a team that missed the playoffs last season doesn’t seem appealing to a player of Hall’s caliber, he says that there is more than meets the eye regarding the Sabres.
“When I sat down with my agent, my dad and people close to me, it made more and more sense,” said Hall.” When you break it down and have an open mind and look past the smoke, the Sabres are a team that has elite payers; ownership committed to building winner - I’ve seen what they’ve done with the Bills - and a coach that gets the most out of his players.
“I saw how the Sabres started last year, they were a hard team to play against. Outscoring teams, their special teams were great. Things fell (apart), but you could see the makings of a good team there for a solid stretch. When you sign a one-year contract, you’re betting on yourself, and I’m betting on the fact that the Sabres can improve and have a good hockey season. I truly believe that. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here.”
One of the primary reasons Hall believes that Buffalo can turn things around quickly is Jack Eichel, who Hall says was a significant factor in his decision to join the Sabres.
“There is no doubt that him being there is a big reason I chose Buffalo,” said Hall about Eichel. “Amazing hockey player that took a great step last year. Now it’s about can we get him in the playoffs and produce on a stage he deserves.”
There were recent rumors that Eichel was growing unhappy in Buffalo and that he was on the verge of asking for a trade. But that’s something that doesn’t bother Hall when he looks at the future of the team.
“I’ve been in a similar spot to him. At one point, I was a frustrated 22-23-year-old,” said Hall. “I know what that’s like but also know how quickly that can turn...Things just kind of come together, and that can happen very quickly.”
Hall says, while he signed just a one-year deal, he is interested in staying in Buffalo for the long-term.
“It’s close to home (in Toronto), close to my parents, it’s a place that I could see myself for a while,” said Hall about Buffalo and the Sabres.
While it shocked many around the league that a player of Hall’s caliber could be happy signing with the Sabres, it seems as if Hall is satisfied with his decision to come to Buffalo.