Earlier this evening, the Boston Bruins, after losing an embarrassing game to the Washington Capitals by a score of 8-1 decided to make a blockbuster move with the Buffalo Sabres, acquiring 2010 1st overall pick Taylor Hall, as well as Curtis Lazar, in exchange for Anders Bjork and Boston’s 2021 2nd round pick. The Bruins also traded a 2022 3rd round pick to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for defenseman Mike Reilly prior to the Hall deal. Buffalo will retain 50% of Hall’s salary in the deal, putting his cap hit at $4 million for the Bruins for the remainder of the 2021 season. Hall is set to become an unrestricted free agent at seasons end. Curtis Lazar has a year remaining on a two-year, $1.6 million deal he signed on September 24th, 2020 with the Sabres following this season.
Taylor Hall waived his no-movement clause to join the Boston Bruins to attempt to play in meaningful, playoff hockey games for only the third time in his career. This season in Buffalo, he is having the worst statistical season of his career, as he has only scored two goals and registered seventeen assists for nineteen points in thirty-seven games for the last-place Sabres. His midseason AB score was a -10.29, as he is one of five Sabres to have double-digit negative individual scores at the midseason point (Dahlin, Reinhart, Miller, Montour, and Hall). The Sabres as a whole have one of the worst combined team AB scores a -99.12, and Hall’s -10.29 certainly didn’t help. In fact, if his midseason score stands, it would be the lowest individual score of Hall’s career by about four points. He hasn’t registered a positive score since his MVP winning season in 2017-18, in which he had an outstanding +8.24 score. Today, his career AB is -0.34, which will almost certainly drop at the conclusion of this season. Another interesting statistic given by Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, states that Taylor Hall has the seventh-worst single season shooting percentage among all NHL players since 2013-14. If there is any place Hall can salvage his season and turn his game around, it’s in Boston with their already talented forward group. He will need to do so rather quickly, as the Bruins are only four points ahead of the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers for the final playoff spot in the East division.
Also in this deal, the Bruins acquired Curtis Lazar, who was quietly one of the better players on the Sabres roster according to our metric. At the midseason point, Lazar had a +2.47 individual AB score, which was the fourth-highest on the Sabres. In fact, Lazar was one of only five Sabres to register positive individual midseason scores. If the +2.47 score holds, it would be the second highest score Lazar has registered in his career, as he had a +2.76 score in 2015-16. In the four seasons of data we have on him, Curtis Lazar has registered two consecutive negative seasons, but appears to have a chance to end that streak this season. He has a career AB score of -0.07. In terms of production, Curtis Lazar looks like he is gradually improving as time goes on. In 2019-20, Lazar played in thirty-three games for the Sabres, in which he scored five goals and registered five assists for ten points. This season, in thirty-three games, he has scored five goals and registered four assists for nine points. His career-high was twenty points in 2015-16 with the Ottawa Senators. At this pace, we think he can have his best year scoring wise since that season, especially playing with more talented players in Boston. We think this was a very good, under-the-radar add for Bruins GM Don Sweeney and his staff, and we will be monitoring Lazar’s play with the Bruins going forward.
Anders Bjork is another interesting player that was included in this deal going to the Buffalo Sabres from the Boston Bruins. In two seasons of data that we have on Bjork, he has a +4.28 career AB score, including an outstanding +7.70 score in 2017-18. This season with the Bruins, Bjork played in thirty games, scoring two goals, and registering three assists for five points. Bjork has two seasons remaining on a contract paying him $1.6 million AAV. We will see what role he will play on the Sabres for the remainder of this season, and whether or not he is in GM Kevyn Adam’s plans for the Sabres future or not. Along with Bjork, the Sabres acquired a 2021 2nd round pick from the Bruins, adding onto a decent haul of draft picks from their pre-deadline day deals. Adams has essentially turned Taylor Hall, Brandon Montour, Curtis Lazar, and Eric Staal (who was traded to the Canadiens on March 26th) for Anders Bjork, a second round pick, two third round picks, and a fifth round pick. This, in all likelihood, isn’t Buffalo’s last trade before the 3pm deadline, and we will continue to watch them throughout the day.
In a separate deal with the Ottawa Senators, the Boston Bruins acquired defenseman Mike Reilly in exchange for a 2022 3rd round pick. The Bruins have definitely needed some help on the defensive end with the departures of former captain Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug, as well as injuries to Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo, which may have prompted them to acquire Reilly. Reilly’s cap hit is $1.5 million according to CapFriendly and is set to become an unrestricted free agent at seasons end. In the four seasons we have on Reilly, he has never registered a positive individual AB score, and his midseason score of -6.8 would be the second lowest of his career if it stands. Points wise however, Reilly just set a new career-high this season, as he has zero goals and nineteen assists for nineteen points in forty games.
Despite all the injuries, key free-agent departures, and various amounts of adversity faced throughout this 2020-2021 season, the acquisitions of Hall, Lazar, and Reilly show that the Bruins are making a real playoff push. It’ll be interesting to watch what else they do, if anything before the 3pm deadline later this afternoon. Much more to come.