With less than a week to go before the NHL trade deadline, the Buffalo Sabres are entering don't-take-a-chance mode with winger Taylor Hall.
The Sabres will be sitting out Hall for tonight's game against the New Jersey Devils in Prudential Center and there's no injury in play. Hall practiced fully on Monday but the team does not want to take any chances on an injury disrupting a potential trade of the former Hart Trophy winner.
Sabres General Manager Kevyn Adams is faced with the same problem that his predecessors weren’t given enough time to solve: What is the right mix of players to push this franchise into the playoffs for the first time since 2011?
Interim head coach Don Granato initially said Hall's status for the game tonight was "undetermined" during his daily video call briefing. A few minutes later, the team passed on an update from Granato that confirmed Hall will sit tonight.
"It's just part of it. It's part of the business," Granato said. "We all know that. Taylor knows that. This game keeps you in the moment and that's preparation for New Jersey. We had a good meeting on them this morning and our focus points and objectives going into the game. So there's enough there, enough intensity to keep you focused where you should be."
Hall, Rasmus Dahlin and Victor Olofsson are the only Sabres to appear in all 37 games this season. But Hall has had a career-worst season with just two goals, while compiling 19 points and a minus-21 rating that's tied with teammate Sam Reinhart for the worst among NHL forwards.
Don Granato wouldn't commit to Tuesday night's game in New Jersey being the one, but the Buffalo Sabres' interim coach said Arttu Ruotsalainen's day is coming.
Hall signed a one-year, $8 million contract with the Sabres last fall and the club is likely going to need to return 50% of that cap hit to facilitate a trade. The New York Islanders, who have lost captain Anders Lee to a knee injury, are one team that's been connected to Hall. Florida, Boston and St. Louis have been among other rumored possibilities.
With Tyce Thompson debuting for the Devils, Tage Thompson of the Sabres will be his opponent.
The Sabres have four games left before the deadline and the Hall decision doesn't necessarily mean a trade is imminent. It's just a case of the Sabres protecting their asset, much like the Devils are doing with veteran winger Kyle Palmieri. New Jersey could not work out a long-term extension with Palmieri and he sat down Sunday's game against Washington. He's not expected in the lineup tonight either.
The Sabres brought up Finnish forward Arttu Ruotsalainen from Rochester to the taxi squad and he practiced Monday. With Hall out, Ruostalainen could be added to the roster to make his NHL debut.
The trade of Hall would make the second major one involving a veteran player for new General Manager Kevyn Adams. The Sabres dealt center Eric Staal to Montreal for a third- and fifth-round pick on March 26 and Staal scored the overtime winner for the Habs in his debut Monday night to produce a 3-2 win over Edmonton.