The Taylor Hall trade has arguably been the most effective move made by any team prior to the NHL trade deadline, and the Boston Bruins should do everything possible to extend this partnership beyond the 2020-21 season.
That means signing Hall to a contract extension at some point in the near future -- but after the Seattle expansion draft in July so he doesn't need to be protected for that. A future with the Bruins beyond 2021 is actually what Hall said he wanted before he even played a single game for the B's.
"I’d love to be a Bruin for a few years," Hall told reporters in his first media availability as a Bruin last month.
Before getting into what a new deal for Hall would like, let's quickly examine how well he's played for Boston since arriving at the trade deadline.
He scored two goals in 37 games for Buffalo before the trade. In 15 games with the Bruins, he has six goals and six assists with 45 shots on net.
Boston has also dominated at 5-on-5 with Hall on the ice, per Natural Stat Trick. The B's have a plus-114 edge in shot attempts, a plus-59 advantage in shots on net, a plus-67 lead in scoring chances and a fantastic 15-1 scoring differential with Hall on the ice during 5-on-5 play.
So, what kind of contract could we expect from Hall?
Here are six good comparable contracts signed by top-six wingers in recent years (all info via CapFriendly):
- Max Pacioretty, VGK: Four years, $28 million ($7M cap hit) signed in 2018
- James van Riemsdyk, PHI: Five years, $35 million ($7M cap hit) signed in 2017)
- Anders Lee, NYI: Seven years, $49 million ($6.5M cap hit) signed in 2019
- Chris Kreider, NYR: Seven years, $45.5 million ($6.5M cap hit) signed in 2020
- Brendan Gallagher, MTL: Six years, $39 million ($6.5M cap hit) signed in 2020
- Cam Atkinson, CBJ: Seven years, $41.125 million ($5.875M cap hit) signed in 2017
Hall is 29 years old. All five of the players listed above signed these contracts between the ages of 28 and 30. At this stage of Hall's career, term might be more important than annual average value. He's been banged up with injuries at times in recent years. Maybe this is his last chance at a lucrative long-term contract of five or more years in length.
The ideal contract for the Bruins would probably be something to similar to Pacioretty's contract. A four-year deal with a cap hit between $6 million and $7 million per season would be solid. It gives Hall a good salary for four years and also doesn't tie the Bruins to him for a long time. A four-year deal would probably take Hall through the rest of his top-six years.
One of Don Sweeney's best talents as Bruins general manager has been re-signing players to below market deals. He did so with Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, in particular -- all elite players earning less than $7 million per season.
How capable are the Bruins to pay Hall between $6-7 million per year? They can definitely do it.
The B's currently are projected to have a little more than $30 million in cap space this summer. Other B's free agents include second-line center David Krejci (UFA), third-line winger Nick Ritchie (UFA), fourth-line center Sean Kuraly (UFA), defensemen Mike Reilly (UFA) and Kevan Miller (UFA), as well as goalies Tuukka Rask (UFA) and Jaroslav Halak (UFA). Trent Frederic, Ondrej Kase and Brandon Carlo are notable RFAs.
The Bruins should be able to sign Hall, Krejci, Carlo, Reilly and Rask. Kuraly can be replaced by a younger forward, same with Ritchie. However, if the B's can re-sign Ritchie to a manageable number, bringing him back would be a good move. Miller could be re-signed cheap or replaced by a younger defenseman (maybe Urho Vaakanainen or Jakub Zboril). Halak's $2.25 million cap hit can be replaced by Jeremy Swayman or Dan Vladar's cheap entry-level salary.
Sweeney also needs to take into account that the next contracts for Charlie McAvoy and David Pastrnak are on the horizon. McAvoy has one more year left on his deal before becoming a RFA, while Pastrnak has two more years remaining on his contract. Both are elite players who should be paid as such.
The Hall-Krejci combo has been so productive in its short time together that the Bruins absolutely should see how it works out over a period of a few years. The Bruins have been looking for a true goal-scoring power forward to play with Krejci for a long time. It's no coincidence Krejci has scored at a higher rate with Hall than he did before the trade. The veteran center has just been a much better player since Hall's arrival.
Re-signing Hall and Krejci need to be priorities for Sweeney in the offseason. Both players still have productive years ahead of them, and their chemistry on the second-line has given Boston much-needed scoring depth.
They are no-brainer moves.