Last summer, with the Buffalo Sabres entering the 2013-14 season seemingly destined for a last-place finish, it was all but certain that they would move the face of the franchise, Ryan Miller, who was set to become a UFA come July 2014. The only questions were ‘to where?’ and ‘for whom?’ It was originally reported months ago that Miller could be headed to St. Louis, and it caused myself, and I’m sure many to others, to ponder, “why the Blues?” They already possessed a quality tandem between the pipes in Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott, as well as top-notch prospect Jake Allen waiting in the minors. Sure enough, Miller was dealt to the Blues last Friday, though it really is a deal that is a winner for both hockey clubs.
For the Sabres, Miller had to go. It appeared he had no intention of re-signing, and they could not risk losing him to free agency for nothing in return. New Sabres GM Tim Murray has nabbed quite the fair return for Buffalo, by sending Miller and Steve Ott to the Blues for Halak, Chris Stewart, prospect William Carrier, a 1st round pick in 2015, and a 3rd round pick in 2016, and it will help the Sabres in both the short/long-term future. In the short term, Chris Stewart will help replace some of the grit and intensity that Ott played with, and can put up 20-25 goals a season. He is signed through 2014-15, at which time he’ll only be 28, and if the Sabres can keep him, he could be a nice long-term addition for a rebuilding team to build around.
I doubt Halak has any long-term lasting in Buffalo. With Jhonas Enroth and Matt Hackett already in the waiting, it’s likely Halak, a UFA after this season, could be traded before Wednesday’s deadline, and it’s also likely he could fetch the Sabres another 1st round pick. If that situation does unfold, the Sabres will get a 1st round pick from a Halak deal, will have their own 1st rounder in 2014, a 1st rounder from the Miller deal in 2015, another 1st rounder from the Blues if they make the West Final this year/Miller re-signs, and either a 1st rounder in 2014 or 2015 from the Islanders as part of October’s Vanek/Moulson deal. That’s a potential for six 1st round picks over the next two years, a perfect situation for a rebuilding team, and if the Sabres use the picks wisely, re-sign Stewart and Moulson (who are still young and will be entering their prime), and have their core of talented youngsters continue to develop (Enroth, Hackett, Cody Hodgson, Zemgus Girgensons, Tyler Ennis) they could turn things around very quickly.
As for the Blues, I think Pierre LeBrun of TSN made an excellent point on what Miller brings to St. Louis. Last year in the playoffs, they outplayed the L.A. Kings, but it was LA netminder Jonathan Quick who out dueled Halak in the low scoring series. With the acquisition of Miller, he now gives the Blues that extra push that the Kings have with Quick, that real game-changing/series-changing goalie. Ott also plays a similar game as the departed Stewart, while also adding a veteran presence and extra depth at centre to complement David Backes, Derek Roy, and Patrik Berglund. These two will certainly help contribute to a long playoff run for the Blues.
I guess the “big” question surround the deal would be, if the Blues don’t make the Stanley Cup finals, and Ryan Miller bolts after the season, does this trade become a loss for the Blues? Only time will tell…
Trade Deadline Day
With the Trade Deadline set for Wednesday at 3pm, I’m sure we’ll see many more intriguing deals made. Instead of watching Sportscentre all day Wednesday, listening to Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger kill the clock, good ol’ Armchair GM Nick Konarowski will save you the time and list the five (well, six) players he thinks will be dealt for sure come Wednesday.
1. Henrik Tallinder or Andrew MacDonald – I can almost guarantee that with the health concerns of Kris Letang and the injury to Paul Martin, one of these two will wind up in Pittsburgh.
2. Mike Cammalleri – Rumours for months now that he’ll be on his way out of Calgary. Could see the Kings, Blue Jackets, and Penguins being interested in his services.
3. Viktor Fasth – Fasth expendable as Ducks owns a plethora of goalie goodies in Jonas Hiller, Fredrik Andersen, and prospect John Gibson. Cheap, but reliable option for many teams. Minnesota? Washington? Detroit?
4. Ales Hemsky/Sam Gagner – We know Oilers GM Craig McTavish is desperate to move these two, and he basically said he wants to recoup the 2nd/3rd round picks from the David Perron and Ben Scrivens trades, so Hemsky or Gagner could be affordable. Hemsky could fit in Los Angeles, while I could see Gagner possibly winding up in Detroit.
5. Scottie Upshall – Panthers GM Dale Tallon is looking to unload many on his roster, and the hard-working Upshall could work well as a third-liner for St. Louis, Vancouver, or maybe even Toronto (longshot).
Photo credits to: bleacherreport.com and tsn.ca