It's trade season in the National Hockey League and discussions around which players might be moved and where they might be moved have picked up considerably as a result.
This latest trade proposal comes courtesy of NHL insider Scott Burnside and it would be a blockbuster indeed, especially if it goes in one of the directions he has proposed. The trade would of course involve current Buffalo Sabres winger Taylor Hall, whose stock has fallen off a cliff ever since he won the Hart Memorial Trophy as a member of the New Jersey Devils, and it would see him returning to his former team the Edmonton Oilers.
The Oilers are of course right up against the salary cap so acquiring a player carrying a cap hit of $8 million, albeit for just this season, is not going to be easy. Burnside acknowledged that the Sabres would have to eat the maximum allowable 50% when it comes to salary retention, but that will likely be the case no matter who they trade Hall to in the end. The Sabres could of course choose not to trade Hall, but that doesn't seem to make any sense given that he would be unlikely to return to Buffalo as a free agent after having a catastrophic season with that organization.
Burnside predicts that the Sabres would get a relatively meager return for Hall under these circumstances, believing that Hall is only worth a mid round draft pick after poor showings with both the Arizona Coyotes and the Buffalo Sabres in the regular season, however he believes that Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams could collect a much bigger haul in this deal as well. The NHL insider suggests packaging James Neal as a part of this deal, a move that would give the Oilers a potential $5.75 million in cap relief for the next two seasons and one that he believes would enrich the Sabres.
But maybe the Oilers sweeten the pot if the Sabres took Neal off their hands. If you’re Adams and you agreed to take on Neal – two more years at a head-smacking $5.75 million – even if only to buy him out, you’d be looking at a collection of picks and perhaps even an ask of one of the team’s handful of emerging young defensemen.
This isn't the craziest idea from the perspective of the Oilers either. Their current general manager Ken Holland has shown a willingness to make this type of deal in the past, and given the cap struggles he has inherited since coming to Edmonton I suspect he would welcome the cap relief. It was in 2016 that Holland made the now infamous trade that saw the contract of former Red Wings star forward Pavel Datsyuk, a player that would never play in the NHL again, sent to the Arizona Coyotes for the Red Wings first round pick (16th overall) at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
Teams have been very resistant to taking on more salary during this pandemic era of the NHL salary cap, but with the Sabres currently in a terrible state it may be time for that organization to look to the future again.
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