Believe it or not, Taylor Hall is ben in the NHL for over a decade. The former first overall draft pick of the 2010 draft began the trend of the Edmonton Oilers drafting high (or first overall) and then snuffing out that draft pick’s will to play. You may remember Nail Yakupov, the former highly touted prospect who was drafted first by the Oilers two years after Hall. He briefly played for the Blues under coach Ken Hitchcock, which served Yak so well that the team declined to extend him a qualifying offer. After a one year stint with the Avalanche, Yakupov is now with the Avengard Omsk of the KHL. He has seven goals and nine assists in 37 GP this season.
Hall didn’t wind up ditching North America, but he hasn’t had much luck with team selection. Traded to the Devils in 2016 for Adam Larssen, the All-Star had a succesful career in New Jersey that was nevertheless marred by injury. He was again traded as part of a rebuild, this time to the Arizona Coyotes, who declined to sign him when his contract was up.
For the first time in his career, Hall was in charge of where he could sign. He chose Buffalo. Why he did that was a matter of much speculation, but the ability to play with Jack Eichel had to have been a factor. Mired in a truly incredible 18 game losing streak, the Sabres are ready for a fire sale. They’ve already dealt Eric Staal to the Canadiens. Staal, to his credit, was honest in discussing the issues in Buffalo. COVID-19 played a part, and it doesn’t look like the team has recovered. Jack Eichel is off of the trade block right now due to a neck injury.
That leaves Taylor Hall.
Rumors have swirled around Hall all season, and right now, the Blues look to be kicking the tires. According to SportsNet’s Elliotte Friedman, St. Louis is one of the teams in for talks. After the recent benching of Mike Hoffman on Monday, it’s apparent that the Blues aren’t getting enough from their offense.
Or, well, is it their defense? That’s been a problem too this season.
Which is it? Which do the Blues fix? With the defense, Colton Parayko’s return would be, pardon the use of this phrase, like making a trade. He could help stabilize a shaky corps, but there isn’t much of a timetable for when he’ll be recovered.
Running into a few hot goalies is never ideal, but the Blues have looked listless over the past two or three weeks. The scoring has evaporated and the team is 2-4-1 in their last six games. The team knows there’s a problem - you have to be blind and deaf not to - but they’re having issues getting motivation going.
What’s a great motivator this time of year? A trade threat.
Hall isn’t going to be cheap, and it’s doubtful that Doug Armstrong could fleece the Sabres as badly as he did in acquiring captain Ryan O’Reilly, but if Hoffman isn’t fitting in, he could be shipped out. Hall has only two goals and 16 assists in 34 games this season. Hoffman, in comparison, has eight goals and 12 assists. It’s difficult to assess Hall’s true output this year considering the challenges of playing for the Sabres, but his acquisition could be a wake-up call to the Blues and an offensive spark.
The Blues’ problems look like they’re about more than scoring, though what they are specifically is unknown. At this point of the season, if Parayko’s return is going to be soon, taking a chance on Hall won’t hurt in the short term. What picks or prospects that need to be tossed in to sweeten the pot remains to be seen, but judging based on the Sabres return for Staal, it could be doable.