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Is Ryan Miller's Trade Value Gone?




 

Early Friday afternoon, ESPN's Pierre LeBrun wrote on Twitter that the Buffalo Sabres had conversations with the St. Louis Blues concerning Ryan Miller. LeBrun added that talks fell apart because the price was “too high.”

And with that, Miller's trade value might very well be gonzo.

While Sabres' GM Darcy Regier was looking for suitors on Friday, the rest of the league was shoring up their goaltending situations.

Edmonton signed a strong backup in Jason LaBarbara. The Islanders inked Evgeni Nabakov to a 1-year deal. Philadelphia brought back an old friend in Ray Emery and the Blackhawks signed 40-year-old Nikolai Khabibulin.

That eliminates at least two teams (Phili, NYI) that seemed like strong possibilities for a Miller move. All the others were checked off the list on draft day or before with the Devils trading for Corey Schneider and Toronto dealing for Jonathan Bernier.

Seriously, who's left?

The teams with the worst even-strength save percentages last year were Calgary, Florida, Philadelphia, the Islanders, Tampa Bay, Winnipeg, Carolina, Colorado, St. Louis and L.A.

Calgary has to be on Miller's list of eight teams to which he can reject a trade. Florida has their prospect Jacob Markstrom, Tampa Bay dealt for Ben Bishop at the deadline, L.A. and Carolina have their franchise goalies in Jonathan Quick and Cam Ward.

Seriously, who's left?

Winnipeg is also likely on the no-trade list and Colorado seems sold on the guy they moved a first-round pick for in Simeon Varlamov.

The goalie landscape is becoming Economics 101. No demand, high supply. Remember too that Tim Thomas, Rick DiPietro, Johan Hedberg, Jose Theodore and Ilya Bryzgalov are all still on the market.

That's not to say Miller can't be moved. Just that he can't be moved right now for big returns

St. Louis might still do it. They have two mediocre goaltenders in Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliot and is a team on the brink of competing for the Cup. They have reason to want Miller. But since they had the No. 1 EV save percentage in 2011-12 with Halak and Elliot, they aren't hard-pressed to make a move.

The low demand and high price aren't the only things working against Miller. His age, traditional stats and contract are, too.

He's 32-years-old, will make $6.25 million next season and has had save percentages of .916, .916 and .915 since his Vezina Trophy-winning season. League average during that time is around .912.

Now, Miller's even-strength save percentage (generally a better indicator of a goalie's play because it removes bad power play/bad luck from the equation) is well above average over the past few seasons. In fact, his 2013 EV save percentage was exactly the same as it was when he won the Vezina at .928. League average EV save percentage was .919.

So he's still a darn good goalie. But nine shots per 1,000 at Even Strength aren't enough to for many teams to consider moving prospects, first-round picks or proven NHL'ers for a 32-year-old, one-year solution.

We had assumed that the team that traded for Miller would want him for a long-term deal. But now there's no place left that Miller would a) want to sign with and b) who would want him long term.

Rock, meet hard place.

The options left for the Sabres are this: Trade Miller for peanuts, wait until the trade deadline or sign him to a long-term deal for too much money.

Waiting until the deadline could bring the highest returns. Or, if Miller doesn't play well, it could end with zero interest instead of very little.

As for a new deal, look at it like a little chess game: A new deal would be, more or less, Miller's agent and Regier deciding a stalemate rather than a loss.

Of course, that depends on what you consider a loss.

Is losing Miller for a second-round pick a loss? Not if it means you don't have to pay him $5 million per year until he's 38. Not if it means that Jhonas Enroth becomes a good No. 1 goalie. Not if there are no more post-game pressers where we have to use the little “bleep” button.

Maybe it's time to just move Miller for the best return, think about the future and forget trying to  "win" the trade.

 


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