Last night was a bit of a roller coaster for the Bruins faithful. Immediately following a brutal 8-1 loss to Washington, news broke that the Bruins and Sabres had agreed to a trade that will send Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar to Boston in exchange for Anders Bjork and a 2021 second-round draft pick. Buffalo will reportedly retain 50% of Hall’s salary.
This is a good deal for the Bruins. Bjork has shown flashes of promise, but he’s a miniscule price to pay for Hall, a former Hart Trophy winner. Though his production has dipped in the years since his 93-point 2017-2018 MVP season, Taylor Hall is a significant addition to the Bruins offense.
Hall’s 19 points this season would place him seventh among Bruins forwards—already quite the improvement on Bjork’s 5. We have to expect that a move from the worst team in hockey would boost those numbers. Hall also apparently sought a trade to Boston specifically and is enthusiastic about the possibility of signing an extension once his contract expires this summer. He told Boston media Monday, “Once I realized I would be traded, Boston was No. 1 on the list of teams I wanted to go to.” Whatever value one places on such intangibles, it’s at the very least a promising sign for his motivation and his attitude toward making a playoff run this year.
A Piece Missing
The Bs need offense. It’s Boston’s defensive success that’s kept them in playoff contention this season. They’ve given up the sixth-fewest goals in the league and scored the seventh-fewest. Ranking 25th in goals for does not bode well for playoff hockey. The addition of a player like Hall, who’s averaged over 50 points per season in his eleven-year career, is much needed for a team hoping to make a playoff run that’s scored fewer goals than the Ottawa Senators. If Hall performs how we all expect him to, he’ll bring a marked improvement for the team as a whole.
The new Bruins winger will presumably join David Krejci on the second line, though Bruce Cassidy has yet to give any indication. The speculation from NESN’s Mike Cole and others offers at least two formidable arrangements: either with Hall on the left wing, Krejci at center and Craig Smith on the right, or with David Pastrnak opposite Hall on the Krejci line. That either combination is a big improvement over the status quo should underscore the potential that Hall brings. He won’t just lift up the skaters on the ice with him; he’ll allow for a stronger third line and more flexibility for the top line as well.
This is (hopefully) the most important outcome of the deal. Wherever Hall fits into the lineup, the acquisition should provide a substantial boost in output for a struggling Boston offense. I’m feeling much more optimistic than I did, for example, during last night’s game.
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