Since the season-ending injury sustained by Anders Lee, the New York Islanders top line has consisted of Mathew Barzal, Jordan Eberle, and one of Kieffer Bellows or Leo Komarov. From the eye test alone, I liked Bellows on the first line. Barry Trotz didn’t, because he healthy scratched Kieffer and replaced him with Komarov.
The past few games we’ve witnessed what I’d categorize as one of the few times we’ve seen Mat Barzal struggle so consistently to produce that it’s become more than just an outlying blip on the radar. Yes, Barzal has gone stretches in the past without producing points, but he’s struggling on a larger scale than just point production since Komarov moved up to the top line.
The Buffalo Sabres are the NHL’s worst team, maybe not from a talent perspective, but the results speak for themselves. The Sabres lost 4-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday, bringing their winless streak to 16 games.
Taylor Hall, who signed a one-year, $8 million contract with the Sabres this past offseason, said following the game that he’d “for sure” be open to waiving the No-Move Clause on his deal. Now, I don’t think that should be news to anyone necessarily, but you know Lou Lamoriello’s ears probably perked up regardless.
Hall “for sure” Would Waive NMC, Islanders Should Investigate
That Islanders first line didn’t even appear threatening in Thursday’s 4-3 overtime win vs. the Boston Bruins. A change needs to be made to get Barry Trotz’s top offensive unit back on track.
Bringing in Taylor Hall, if nothing else, would give the Islanders a genuine article top-six winger to plug into that struggling top unit. Whatever your opinion on Hall, the Islanders should definitely be inquiring about him, if they haven’t already.
The argument has been made that Hall only cares about money, not winning because he went to Buffalo in the offseason. That’s a poor argument if I’m honest.
Hall finally had his first chance to choose a destination for himself at 28-years-old, and being that it was probably one of his last chances to truly get paid, he was looking for somewhere he could make money this season, and boost his resume to potentially spark a free-agent bidding war for his services this coming summer.
He saw an opportunity to play on a wing with Jack Eichel, and after being underpaid his entire career, including his Hart Trophy-winning season of 2017-18, he finally got a chance to choose a destination with a world-class linemate and enough cap space to pay him as a former MVP should be.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out. The Sabres are horrendous, Eichel has gone to see a specialist for what may be a neck injury following a Casey Cizikas check a few weeks back, and Hall is shooting a staggeringly low 2.6 percent in 2020-21.
Now, Hall has never been the dangerous shooting threat or finisher that Anders Lee is, but unless he’s been cursed or something, he’s not going to continue shooting 2.6% for the remainder of 2020-21.
I think a lot of the troubles with Hall’s game this season have been the product of Buffalo’s poor system and coaching. A move to the Islanders, a team with one of the best head coaches and systems NHL-wide, could be the move to get him back to producing at a level we’re more accustomed to seeing from him.
Whether that move takes place, or the Islanders go hunting for a different option, I’m not sure. Only time will tell, really. But, there’s a need to plug a top-six winger hole for the Islanders this season. They have the cap space to make a move. There’s a need for Hall to leave Buffalo, and there’s a need for the Sabres to offload Hall without losing him for nothing via free agency.
The makings of a good deal for both sides are there. Whether the Islanders and Sabres will come together to make it happen before the April 12 trade deadline remains to be seen.