“When you sign a one-year contract you’re obviously betting on yourself,” Hall said Monday. “I’m betting on myself, but I’m betting that the Sabres can improve and have a good hockey season. I truly believe that. If I didn’t I wouldn’t be here. I really think there are steps to be taken and the pieces are there. Hopefully I can add to that and have a good year.”
The forward, who turns 29 on Nov. 14, scored 52 points (16 goals, 36 assists) in 65 games with the Arizona Coyotes and New Jersey Devils last season, including 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists) in 35 games after he was traded to Arizona on Dec. 16. He scored six points (two goals, four assists) in nine postseason games.
“So as we went into free agency, as soon as it opened, I called (agent) Darren Ferris immediately and let him know our interest and then we went from there,” Buffalo general manager Kevyn Adams said. “… I made it very clear in the beginning to Darren Ferris and their group that we want players that want to be here. We want players that are humble and hungry and want to win and want to be part of something special. If that didn’t fit, we wouldn’t keep going down the road and have conversations. But it became very clear quickly that there was interest, that Taylor had an interest in being here and being a part of something special. Here’s where we got to, so it’s exciting.”
Hall confirmed that he always had interest in signing with the Sabres.
“Even before free agency, Buffalo was a place I told my agent Darren Ferris that I would think about playing there, it would be something that I think would be enjoyable and I’m really glad that we’re here,” Hall said. “I think Buffalo is a team, whether guys realize it or not, everyone around the League kind of pulls for them. It’s a good city. They have passionate fans. They have a fan base that is starving for a winning team and hasn’t had that lately. You go in and you know improvement is going to be seen as a positive thing and that’s a good situation to go into. Sometimes if you go to the best team in the League and they don’t do well, maybe it’s seen as a disappointment. There’s a lot of positivity that can come from this and I’m really hoping that that happens.”
Hall won the Hart Trophy voted as NHL MVP in 2017-18 when he ranked sixth in the League with an NHL career-high 93 points (39 goals, 54 assists) in 76 games to help the Devils to a 27-point improvement in the standings and their first Stanley Cup Playoff appearance since 2012.
“There’s very few players in the world who can decide games on their own …,” Sabres coach Ralph Krueger told WGR in Buffalo. “What he has very similar to [center Jack Eichel] is this drive to make a difference, especially when games are on the line.”
Hall said that the chance to play with Eichel, who was eighth in the NHL with 36 goals last season and tied with Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau for 10th with 78 points, was a big reason why he elected to sign with the Sabres.
“There’s no doubt about it that him being there is a big reason why I chose Buffalo,” Hall said. “He’s an amazing hockey player. I think that he took a great step last year. Now it’s about can we find a way to get him in the playoffs and really produce on a stage that I feel that he deserves. Have I been told that I’m going to play with him exclusively? No, I have not. But when Ralph talked to me he said he thinks we’re a good pair not only on the ice, but he feels like we have the same personality and we’re going to gel well. That meant a lot coming from Ralph. He doesn’t just say that.”
As for the one-year term on the contract, Hall said he’s happy with it.
“There were multiyear deals on the table,” Hall said. “I came into it thinking it was either going to be a six- or seven-year deal or a one year and see where the marketplace went to potentially next summer. I don’t know if I’ll get there. Honestly, the best thing for both sides is if this goes really well and I’m a Sabre for a long time feeling comfortable with where I’m at. For both sides, we’re comfortable with a one-year deal and seeing where things take us. Who knows how many games we play this year or what the world looks like even two months from now? Buffalo didn’t offer me anything long term. It was one or two years and I went with one and I’m excited about it.”
The Sabres and Hall are open to a longer-term contract, Adams said.
“Just because it’s one year shouldn’t give any indication that we only wanted one year,” he said. “We believe in Taylor as a player and as a person, and we hope this turns into a long-term relationship for both sides that works. We’ll see where that goes, but we made that clear to them, and they made that clear to us as well.”
Selected by the Edmonton Oilers with the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, Hall scored 328 points (132 goals, 196 assists) in 381 games in six seasons with the Oilers but never reached the postseason.
Adams said Hall’s relationship with Krueger, who was Oilers coach in 2012-13, played a big role in the signing.
“We really spent a lot of time over the last couple of days between ownership, myself and Ralph just really having open and honest communication with Taylor and his representatives and got to this point. So I’m really excited about that. Yeah, it was absolutely an important piece and how integral that played in all of this, Ralph’s relationship.”
Hall was traded to New Jersey by Edmonton for defenseman Adam Larsson on June 29, 2016. He scored 208 points (76 goals, 132 assists) in 211 games in four seasons with the Devils.
Hall has scored 563 points (218 goals, 345 assists) in 627 NHL games and 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 14 postseason games.
NHL.com senior writer Dan Rosen contributed to this report