Taylor Hall has likely played his last game with the Buffalo Sabres, but the former Hart Trophy winner isn’t away from the team while awaiting a possible trade.
Hall, ranked second on TSN’s latest Trade Bait list ahead of Monday's deadline, remains out of the lineup as General Manager Kevyn Adams negotiates with other teams. However, Hall remains involved in team meetings and off-ice workouts while Buffalo wraps up a homestand this week, interim coach Don Granato said.
With Hall still on the roster, the Sabres don’t have enough salary cap space to add a forward to the active roster. This forced Granato to deploy an 11-forward, seven-defensemen lineup for a second consecutive game Thursday night against the New Jersey Devils.
“He’s still involved with everything,” Granato said following the optional morning skate Thursday. “The same other than being held out of the game. As I mentioned, it’s part of this week. There’s some oddities that are presented this week, even affecting our lineup and what we do within that lineup. This is just one part of it. I feel the players all understand this and it’s not a distraction going into any meeting or practice or prep or the game itself.”
According to CapFriendly.com, the Sabres had $669,675 of available cap space as of Thursday morning. The team even moved defenseman Jacob Bryson and forward Steven Fogarty to the taxi squad Wednesday to accrue space.
For whatever reason, the Sabres have yet to place defenseman Jake McCabe on long-term injured reserve after he suffered a season-ending knee injury. Doing so would create additional cap space for Adams to supplement the roster while waiting for a Hall trade to be complete.
It’s unclear how many suitors are involved in talks with Adams, but one possible fit is gone after the New York Islanders acquired forwards Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from the Devils on Wednesday for two prospects and two draft picks, including a first rounder.
Adams is reportedly trying to acquire a first-round draft choice in any Hall trade. Such a scenario would likely require the Sabres to retain 50% of the salary Hall is owed. It’s also unclear what the market is for Hall, who has two goals with 17 assists and a minus-21 rating in 37 games with Buffalo.
Hall is shooting a career-low 2.3% – he shot 14% during his Hart Trophy season with the Devils in 2017-18 – and leads the Sabres in on-ice shot quality at 5-on-5, according to Evolving-Hockey.com. The 29-year-old played out of position on the power play and never benefitted from skating alongside Jack Eichel. Hall’s skill was also suppressed in former coach Ralph Krueger’s ultra-conservative system.
Florida is one possible trade partner after the Panthers cleared $4.1 million in cap space by trading forward Brett Connolly to Chicago in a salary dump on Thursday.
Reinhart trade chatter
TSN’s Darren Dreger mentioned recently that teams around the NHL have called Sabres General Manager Kevyn Adams to gauge the price tag to acquire winger Sam Reinhart.
Which contender wouldn’t want Reinhart? Entering Thursday, the 25-year-old led the Sabres in goals (13) and points (24) while counting $5.2 million against the salary cap this season. He’s a pending restricted free agent and won’t be eligible for unrestricted free agency until 2022.
The former second overall draft pick had no interest in discussing those rumors when broached with the topic following an optional morning skate Thursday.
“Not much,” Reinhart said if he thinks about the trade chatter. “I mean, what’s going through my head right now is a game tonight against New Jersey.”
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, the organization’s top goaltending prospect, had a difficult week after spending some time on the Sabres’ taxi squad.
Luukkonen, 22, recorded a .844 save percentage in three starts with the Rochester Americans, stopping 65 of 77 shots during a three-game series against the Syracuse Crunch. A second-round draft pick in 2017, Luukkonen has a 6-4-2 record, 3.48 goals-against average and .888 save percentage in 12 games with the Amerks this season.