One of the strangest deals of this year’s Free Agent Frenzy was one signed by a familiar face.
Taylor Hall shocked the hockey world when he inked a one-year deal worth $8 million to join the Buffalo Sabres.
It had been reported that Hall was willing to take a short-term deal and retry free agency when the financial landscape is more favourable. But it was also expected that Hall, who has yet to play on a legitimate contender throughout this first decade in the league, would also take a short-term deal to go Stanley Cup chasing.
Signing in Buffalo… isn’t Cup chasing.
The Sabres, of course, have been trudging through their own Decade of Darkness. They haven’t made the playoffs since the 2010-11 season and they missed out on the expanded playoff field after posting a 30-31-8 record in 2019-20.
Adding Hall obviously makes Buffalo a better team, perhaps even good enough to slide into a playoff spot, but one player certainly isn’t going to make the difference from jumping from a basement team to a contender.
The logic for Hall, I would assume, is that Buffalo could offer him a significant amount of cash for one year and they can give him an opportunity to play alongside Jack Eichel on the top line. After a pretty ho-hum year between New Jersey and Arizona, playing with Eichel will give Hall a chance to pump his stats before taking another run at free agency. The Sabres could also deal Hall at the trade deadline to a cap-strapped contender if things go south for them.
Anyways, that’s enough about the Sabres. What does this mean for the Oilers?
Well, Chris Johnston appeared on the Steve Dangle Podcast on Sunday and said… “I think Hall wants to go back to Edmonton one day, in a perfect world I think he would’ve wanted to go back this year.”
Here’s the podcast in video form. They start talking about Hall signing in Buffalo at 27:00 and get to the Oilers a couple of minutes after that. 
Apparently, Hall and the Oilers spoke about coming to a deal this off-season but the money never worked. As we know, the Oilers were way too tight to the salary cap ceiling with too many other holes to patch in order to give Hall the contract he would be looking for.
So that’s another reason why Hall possibly took that one-year deal in Buffalo. If he truly does want to circle back to Edmonton and rejoin the Oilers, the team will have a lot more flexibility to make it work next off-season.
Edmonton will have Adam Larsson, Kris Russell, Alex Chiasson, Tyson Barrie, Mike Smith, and Benoit Pouliot’s buyout coming off the books but they’ll also have to sort out a new deal for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who will be a UFA, and Kailer Yamamoto, who will be an RFA.
Bringing back Hall is an interesting proposition. Having three Hart Trophy winners in the same lineup would be pretty incredible. But it’s difficult to imagine the Oilers being able to fit both Hall and Nugent-Hopkins in together, so this is obviously far from an inevitability.
It’ll certainly be something to keep an eye on all year, though. If the Oilers are a legitimate contender come trade deadline time, they could be one of the teams calling Buffalo and asking about acquiring Hall as a rental for a playoff run.