Sunday night brought the stunning news around the hockey world that the Buffalo Sabres had won the Taylor Hall sweepstakes, signing the former Hart Trophy winner to a one-year contract worth $8 million.
The Sabres weren't given much of a chance to land the former No. 1 overall pick of the 2010 NHL Draft, but he chose the Sabres on a short-term deal, given the current situation with the flat salary cap for the 2020-21 season.
The 28-year-old is coming off a season where he split the time between the New Jersey Devils and Arizona Coyotes, scoring a total of 52 points (16+36) in 65 games before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the regular season on March 12.
In nine games with the Coyotes in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Hall performed well with two goals and four assists for six points. However, Arizona was eliminated in the Western Conference Quarterfinal Round by the Colorado Avalanche after an upset win over the Nashville Predators in the Qualification Round in the Edmonton bubble.
Now, Hall gets the chance to play on a Sabres team that not only features a top player in the National Hockey League in Jack Eichel, but also has his former head coach with the Edmonton Oilers in the lockout shortened 2012-13 season, Ralph Krueger.
During that season under Krueger's tutelage, Hall scored 16 goals and registered 24 assists for 50 points in 45 games, which was the second-highest points per-game average of his career.
After being a part of the talks that helped land Hall in Buffalo, Krueger took some time on Monday to join Howard Simon and Jeremy White on WGR. He talked about his relationship with Hall dating back to his Edmonton days, his look ahead at the lineup for the 2020-21 season and more.
Here is some of what he had to say:
Krueger on the original chances of getting Hall signed in Buffalo:
"It's a trust level that Taylor and I have out of the past, and over the past decade here. [I thought] that we had a chance emotionally, but where his mind was at and what his options were you never know in a process like this. We're extremely pleased that he's committed to us, and although it's a one-year deal, he's planning for a run here with Buffalo and this is a good way to start it."
Krueger on what Hall brings to the Sabres lineup:
"There's very few players in the world that can decide games on their own in the National Hockey League. If somebody wins the MVP, as he did a couple of years ago, then he's quite clearly an impact player and one of the very elite forwards in the National Hockey League. What he has, very similar to Jack too, is this strive to make a difference, especially when games are on the line. The competitiveness that he brings on a day-to-day basis; of course he can match that with his skillset, which is unique. He has a speed and a power in him, which very few players have. The Sabres fans are going to love it. It's a powerful addition to our lineup."
Krueger on how the team sold the idea of Buffalo to Hall:
"No. 1 is the culture that we worked on so hard last season. Here we are a few months later, and we still have to admit that we're not happy where we ended or the final results, but there was an amazing evolution within the group, within the team. I know that culture means a lot to Taylor; what's going on in the room, what's the relationship between the coaches and the players, and the spirit. Our core spirit is strong, and we all knew that we needed to strengthen our lineup to take that next step.
"The opportunity for him to play with Jack Eichel, who's an absolute elite centerman in the this league, and also just the environment here in Buffalo with the historic hockey town that is hungering for that next level and playoff hockey, and the opportunity that's within that and what would happen. The passionate environment here, the ownership - the Pegulas, how they are truly doing everything for us to win now, with Kevyn Adams and the management team, with how we're working together day-by-day here to get things right. Taylor heard all of that and more."
Krueger on the conversations with Hall from the start of the free agency period:
"The longest conversation was the initial one. We had multiple parties from our side on the call and they had multiple parties. I think yesterday morning where Taylor had it nailed down; we had a lengthy FaceTime chat and in-between with modern technology you're texting each other, but I thought yesterday morning was probably where I thought for the first time I believed we had a really good opportunity and chance. Again, last night we heard the news, and it's a win-win for both sides."
Krueger on the potential of Hall playing on a line with Eichel:
"As you well know, whether we're at home or on the road and depending on the game and the score, there's a really good chance that the speed and the skill set that these two have will synergize for something extremely exciting. I have a sheet in front of me right now where it looks something like that."
Krueger on his conversation with Eichel following the signing of Hall:
You can listen to the entire interview below: