On Friday, the Tampa Bay Lightning placed 585-game NHL veteran Adam Hall on waivers. The 6’3”, 213 pound centre is a guy who in a lot of ways would look pretty good centering the Oilers’ fourth line right now. Should the team claim him?
There are definite positives to adding Hall to the roster.
Faceoffs. Hall has won 56.4% of his faceoffs this season, 59.5% of his faceoffs last season, and 55.0% of his draws the year before that. He’s also a right-handed faceoff man, where both Shawn Horcoff and Eric Belanger are lefties – he would give the Oilers their only reliable right-shooting faceoff taker (right now Sam Gagner’s basically the choice by default in that role, and he’s less than ideal for it).
Penalty killing. Hall has been the Lightning’s most-used penalty-killer in each of the last two seasons, though he’s dropped to second this year. He’s not a guy like Mike Brown, who has been used in the role in the past from time to time – he’s a specialist who gets leaned on heavily in it.
Defensive zone work. Hall’s coaches have not hesitated to use him in his own end of the rink. This year at even-strength, for example, he’s been on the ice for 13 draws in the opposition zone on 5-on-5 – and 98 in his own end. Previous years haven’t been as ludicrous, but they’ve been heavily weighted towards the defensive zone.
Physical game. Hall is big, hits regularly, and drops the gloves once or twice per year.
Versatility. Hall plays both centre and right wing.
Contract. Hall is on a one-year deal that pays him $650,000. He’s dirt cheap, and low-risk.
There are some negatives, too, some of them associated with the player and some of them associated with the team.
The 50-man list. The Oilers have 51 men under contract, 49 of them on deals that count against the NHL’s 50-contract limit this season. They’re already painfully inflexible, and adding Hall will push them to the limit.
This year’s shot metrics. It’s perhaps unsurprising, given his radically defensive-oriented start, but the Lightning have been getting dominated with Hall on the ice at even-strength. Of interest, here, is the fact that a) in previous years, Hall hasn’t been getting hammered like this and b) it’s a lack of offence, rather than poor defence. Hall’s shots for are very low but his shots against rate is roughly average with the rest of the team. So while this is technically a negative, I’d argue it’s a long way from damning.
Offence. As hinted at in the last point, Hall’s offensive numbers leave much to be desired. He has no goals and four assists in 20 games this season, and had just seven points last year. Interestingly, he has had more success in the past – in a three-year stretch with Nashville he scored he scored 43 goals – but he’s not going to be a guy who drives offensive results.
Remember back when Shawn Horcoff and Eric Belanger were hurt and the Oilers were running Chris VandeVelde as their fourth line centre? This is the guy the team should have had in the job. Judging by the fact that he’s on waivers now, he couldn’t have been all that expensive – and inserting an honest-to-goodness faceoff guy, penalty killer and useful hockey player into the centre position would have been a very good idea. The team’s refusal to address the problem and instead do things like ‘play Ryan Smyth in the middle’ and was baffling at the time and baffling in retrospect.
In a perfect world, the team would have traded for this guy a month ago, sending away something small – say a fringe prospect like Alex Plante (or for that matter Chris VandeVelde) for the player. Assuming Hall clears, he will earn $650,000 in the AHL. A guy like Plante earns $65,000; VandeVelde $62,500. Maybe Tampa Bay has some elaborate plan to fetch a better return if Hall clears waivers, but it seems unlikely that there’s a long list of teams lining up to pay a guy six figures to be in the minors.
In a less-than-perfect world, the Oilers would have sent out a contract in a trade yesterday, before the Lightning put Hall on waivers. They really need to move a contract if they want to bring this guy in.
Because of the contract limit, I would understand if the Oilers chose not to make a waiver claim. But based on his history, Adam Hall is a better NHL player than Lennart Petrell, and he fits team need in a way that none of the Oilers’ umpteen wingers do: by playing centre. With all due respect to Ryan Smyth, the Oilers are a better team with him on the wing and actual centre at centre on the fourth line.
This is exactly the kind of guy the Oilers could have used as a 13th or 14th forward while they were out signing Darcy Hordichuk and Lennart Petrell to new contracts this summer. He’s exactly the kind of guy who would have been really handy when the great centre plague of 2013 struck the team. Now, he’s arguably less important, given where the Oilers are in the standings, but he would probably still make them a better team.
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