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Lightning Round: Taylor Hall signs in... Buffalo?

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

Edmonton Oilers v Buffalo Sabres
BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 01: Zach Bogosian #44 of the Buffalo Sabres defends against Taylor Hall #4 of the Edmonton Oilers at First Niagara Center on March 1, 2016 in Buffalo, New York. Edmonton defeated Buffalo 2-1.
Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images

Day Three of NHL Free Agency has come and gone and one of the two big names is finally off the board. Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall has signed with the 25th place Buffalo Sabres. Wait, what? He signed a one-year deal worth $8 million this coming season. Huh? On the face of it, this contract makes no sense, but let’s dig into it and find the method within the madness.

The 2019-20 season ended prematurely, with the NHL taking heavy losses to their yearly revenue. According to the CBA, players are owed 50% of all revenue, with any discrepancies being evened out with escrow (a percentage pay back or pay forward). This season, that escrow is 20% of all NHL contracts, plus an extra 10% that goes to the owners that will be paid back later.

So this season, players are losing 30% of their contracts before any other expenses. With that major hit being taken this season and escrow being clawed back in the next few years, who wants to get paid a front-loaded contract right now? Better to get that big signing bonus or salary raise in years three or four.

The other side of the coin is that most teams are severely cash poor right now. They didn’t have the revenue they expected to pay their employees and settle expenses, so of course signing big money deals will be hard to justify.

And that’s Taylor Hall’s dilemma. He’s still relatively young, he can probably get a big money deal next year when the economy is in a better shape.

But why Buffalo? I have a few theories.

  1. It’s close to Toronto, where he lives.
  2. He can juice his numbers next to Jack Eichel for a bigger pay day next season.
  3. With a no-movement and no-trade clause intact, he can choose where he wants to go at the deadline and pick the contender of his liking to go deep into the playoffs with.

As teams accrue cap space over the year (something Steve Yzerman and Julien Brisebois have played to perfection for years) they’ll be better equipped to take in $8 million (or 50% of it if Buffalo retains) than they could’ve today. For example, if the Lightning go into the season with their current roster, they’ll have $2.9 million in cap space today, but $9 million in cap space by the deadline because everyday that money gets pushed forward. All of a sudden, welcome to Taylor Bay.

It’s a secretly brilliant move that helps Hall and the Sabres, who’ll get a sweet haul of assets at the deadline.

Or, who knows, maybe Buffalo will become Cup contenders?


Lightning Links

Justin published the unofficial “leaked” transcript between JBB and Steven Stamkos discussing the captain waiving his no-move clause. It was quite funny, I liked the Pat Maroon (recently re-signed) cameo.

Door flies open. Nikita Kucherov enters wearing what appears to be the same outfit that he was wearing at the Stanley Cup celebration. It’s hard to tell if he’s slept since then. He stumbles over to the Stanley Cup and hugs it as if it was a favorite nephew. He then staggers to Mr. BriseBois and embraces him awkwardly before kissing him on the cheek.” [Raw Charge]

Still nothing on the Tampa Bay Lightning front in terms of creating cap space and no one was signed to the team for this season. Anthony Cirelli, Mikhail Sergachev, and Erik Cernak all remain restricted free agents.

The Cup made its way to the diamond!

Here’s who was signed yesterday:

Vegas is also speaking to Alex Pietrangelo, who visited them over the weekend. It’s expected they’re going to trade Nate Schmidt and sign Pietrangelo in the coming days. Pietrangelo was caught off guard by other teams on his list completing their business and signing other defensemen before him (Torey Krug with STL, TJ Brodie with TOR). There aren’t many spots left for him, with Vegas being the only contender available to the 30-year-old. And because of his age compared to Hall, he needs to make his money now.