The NHL trade deadline is closing in and after almost a year of wondering we are about to find out what the future will hold for Ryan Miller.
Here are the options.
He goes nowhere. Now that Tim Murray has publicly placed the for sale/rent sign on Miller, the only reason for the goalie to be in Buffalo beyond next Wednesday is if the Sabres are unable to find a deal they like. To me, Murray sounds very much like a guy who is confident he'll get a return he can live with and I'm feeling like the trade is only a matter of when, not if.
So where does he go?
I've been talking up Washington for a while now. When the Capitals were here last at the end of January I started really thinking about them making sense for a big move. Acquiring Miller would be a big move. This idea has less to do with the Capitals being Ryan Miller away from a Stanley Cup run than it does with pressure I believe would be on their GM to do something dramatic.
George McPhee has been the Capitals GM since 1997. They made the finals in his first season on the job. They've won their division 7 times, have had some great seasons and even won some playoff rounds since. Despite this, their reputation is that they're never quite good enough. My premise here is that McPhee could feel some pressure to do something big with his team or risk seeing the sand run out of the hourglass on his tenure. Not making the playoffs or even getting in but going out early could be a sign that big changes need to be made to the Capitals roster. It would seem logical that ownership at that point might consider changing the guy who built it rather than let McPhee tear it down and start over. Sound familiar, Sabres fans?
What do I get from Washington? Well I really like Marcus Johansson, a 23 year old center. Problem here is that if Washington is trying to win now by trading for Miller it doesn't seem likely that they'd give up a good roster player. That could change if the Capitals made a second deal for another center to replace Johansson. Prospect wise, Andre Burakovsky was a first round pick last year and is currently playing for Erie of the OHL. He has 32 goals in 48 games with the Otters. I'd start there if I were the Sabres. I'll also take either one of their NHL goalies just to get the deal done.
The St. Louis Blues make a lot of sense, so much so that our Mathew Coller has been looking at the Blues as a landing spot going back to last winter. A very strong team, it doesn't seem like goaltending is a real weakness for the Blues. Both Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak have respectable enough numbers. The problem for the Blues is they are in a stacked Western Conference and will likely be in tense low scoring games come playoff time. They lost 4 straight one goal games to the Kings last year after winning the first two games of the series. It is possible to me that the Blues could view Miller as the one piece they need to be the team standing above LA, Chicago, San Jose and Anaheim when the smoke clears on what should be a brutal Western Conference post season.
Complicating things even more in a potential Miller trade to the Blues is whether or not they think they can sign Miller long term. It is quite possible to me that the Blues could want Miller and meet the Sabres price, but be uncomfortable with either the cost of re-upping with him or with Miller wanting to commit to them. There are a lot of moving parts when you factor this in. Would Miller pass up a look at free agency to sign with the Blues? How many teams would be interested in paying Miller big money in July? Is it really many more than are interested now? Would the Blues pay him top dollar, between $7-8 million?
Add it all up, and this is risky because I'm pretty far into Miller's head here, but for a chance to win over the next few years the Blues seem to be about as good as you could hope to do. A bad team might be willing to pay Miller more in the summer but is that what this is about? I think no.
Most of this goes out the window if the Blues are only interested in renting Miller. I don't happen to think that makes a lot sense. If the Blues think Miller is worth getting for this year I think they'd likely think him being their goalie for the next few years would be a good idea. The Blues do have a prospect goalie by the name of Jake Allen that they may want to clear the deck for, so there is that.
What do I want from the Blues? Again, I'll take whichever NHL goalie they want to give me, not feeling all that picky about that. It's mostly about taking salary back. Prospects wise, both Dmitri Jaskin and Ty Rattie get favorable write ups at Hockey Prospectus. Both are right wings who project as very good second line players if not top liners. Jaskin has just recently been recalled by the Blues. I suppose if I could pry the young goalie Allen loose that would work too, but assuming I have to take the salary of either Halak or Elliott makes getting a second goalie in the trade unlikely to me.
Beyond the Blues and the Capitals I have a tough time seeing a fit anywhere else. Maybe Philadelphia, Columbus, Minnesota or some other team will pop up and decide to go for it. The smart money belongs on the team that has made the most sense for the longest time, the Blues. A Miller commitment to stay there makes more sense than Washington. If this deal hinges on a contract extension for Miller, the Blues are my pick.