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Watling: Isles Need Hall Trade to Save Sputtering Offense

Just over a month ago, before the injury to captain Anders Lee, I wrote the Islanders needed to make a move for a talented forward. At the time the Isles were a middling 9-6-3, battling for the third or fourth seed in the East Division. Fast forward to now, they are a virtual lock to make the playoffs with a 91% chance according to The Athletic’s Dom Luszczyszyn. Despite this, the Islanders cannot go into the playoffs with their current roster.

They need Taylor Hall.

I understand that Hall is not the player we thought he would be this season, scoring at an abysmal rate that in all honesty if unfathomable. To put it bluntly, he has been atrocious. 

Hall currently sits at 18 points with a mere two goals in 34 games played. Over the course of a full 82-game season, this pace would be the worst of his career. The 29-year-old is on pace for 43.4 points this season, second-worst than in his rookie season when he scored at a 53 point pace. The fact of the matter is this is not a coincidence that Hall is playing poorly on a historically bad team in Buffalo.

We have seen Hall score at an elite rate for years, even last year with the New Jersey Devils and Arizona Coyotes. With those two mediocre offensive teams, he put up 0.8 points per game. By no means is a 65-point season elite, but imagine what he could do with a forward like Mathew Barzal.

The crux of my argument is not that the Isles need to overpay for Hall or get him by any means necessary, rather use his low value on the trade market as a resource. Hall might be able to land the Sabres a first-round pick. The reported asking price per  TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, but I am not quite sure Sabres’ General Manager Kevyn Adams will get that.

Adams just got a weak return on Eric Staal who went to Montreal for a third and fifth-round pick. The one thing that concerns me regarding this move is that Canadian teams are willing to trade for players playing in the U.S., deciding that the week-long quarantine is worth it for some pieces. This will obviously increase the number of potential suitors for Hall.

Regardless, it does not seem like there is much of a market materializing for Hall. Hall is also expected to be a pure rental with the flat cap conundrum in the NHL right now, which only lowers his value. Realistically, a first-round pick might be worth it for the former MVP. 

Take a look at this Islanders team. The offense has been putrid since Lee’s injury. It has been so bad that Leo Komarov is playing on Barzal’s top line. You could probably put me on Barzal’s wing and I could outscore Komorov’s one assist, and I cannot even skate backwards. It is astonishing to think it is okay to put a literal anchor on the top line. Komarov’s hands are below average at best, he can barely skate and the only thing he is okay at is playing defense.

This is not what Barzal deserves.

He deserves a speedy winger that can create and shoot. Isles’ fans saw it the last few nights first-hand. Even though the team struggled out of the gate, you cannot afford to score just one goal.

“I didn’t think [the Penguins] had anything after the first period,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “They had 10 or 11 chances, for my count, and they had seven in the first period. I thought we did a pretty good job. But we fell short. That’s the bottom line.”

Eleven scoring chances allowed. That’s it. That loss was not because of bad defense, it was due to abysmal offense. You cannot win games 2-1 or 1-0 all the time, it is not sustainable.  Hall would add a much-needed boost to the offense, even if he is producing at a suboptimal level.

At the end of the day, the Isles might not trade for Hall, and depending on what he goes for, I might be okay with it. The Isles should offer their 2021 first-round pick, hopefully one in the high-20s, as well as a Colorado second or third-round pick for Hall and the Sabres to take Komorov or Ladd’s contract back the other way. Think of it as a cap dump, something the Islanders will need to do before next season anyway with several free agents, including Anthony Beauvillier, Casey Cizikas and Adam Pelech.

Improving the team now is an urgent need for the Islanders and their middling offense, but a trade for Taylor Hall could also improve the team’s long-term salary cap situation if g.m. Lou Lamoriello plays his cards right.



Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattWatling99


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