For starters, this season has offered up a couple of other names that muddy the waters in the goaltending market. James Reimer in Toronto and Martin Brodeur in New Jersey who just remarked he may waive his NTC may make for trouble in the market for the Sabres depending on their asking price. Other big names and the fact Miller somewhat controls the situation make this a slippery slope in Buffalo. See, Miller has a clause in his contract where he can submit a list of eight teams he can’t be traded to. At 33 years old, that likely removes currently rebuilding or other struggling teams. On the other hand, there’s a reason playoff teams are playoff teams: they already have their goaltending situation figured out. So where does that leave the Sabres? Hoping that a team is looking to make a playoff push and that Miller will allow the move to such a team. The other key, as obvious as it may sound, is the return. Of course it’s about the return, right? Here’s what makes things even trickier: the St. Louis Blues were said to be hot after Miller just last week, but talks have reportedly cooled. Think of how this would have had to work – considering they already have Jaroslav Halak, Brian Elliott and Jake Allen knocking on the door from Chicago in the AHL, the Sabres had to be requesting either Halak or Allen. They’re going to need a goalie in return to either start in place of Miller or back up Enroth for the rest of the season due to the fact that their goaltending options in Rochester are not prepared for the leap to the NHL. So would it be a sign and trade deal for Halak (and then some) due to the fact he is also a pending UFA? That could work. If it was Allen they were after, the Blues would have had to make another move because there’s no way they would carry Miller, Halak and Elliott. The Blues don’t want to make any more moves than they have to considering the fantastic roster already in place. There has to be a team that’s currently sitting near the bottom or just outside of the playoff picture in order to make this work. Who fits the bill?
In the East, teams that sit in the previously mentioned position and may be searching for goaltending help include the Carolina Hurricanes, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals and the New York Islanders. I would remove the Islanders because I believe them to be on Miller’s no-trade list and the Senators because new GM Tim Murray would not risk sending Miller to a division rival. The Hurricanes are borderline due to the return of Cam Ward, but can he stay healthy? The Flyers were reportedly hot after Miller last offseason and the Capitals are a very intriguing situation. I would definitely keep my eye on them. They don’t appear set on any of the three goalies who have dressed for them this year – Holtby, Grubauer and Neuvirth.
The Western Conference has a much shorter list as only the Minnesota Wild and possibly the Nashville Predators seem to be options. Perhaps Lindy Ruff will ask the Dallas Stars to inquire due to Kari Lehtonen’s up and down play this season, but that would get messy in a hurry for a few reasons. First, I don’t think Buffalo would want Lehtonen in return. Second, the Stars would need to make sure they locked Miller up after this season. Last, if Lehtonen wasn’t part of the deal, they can’t carry two #1’s and expect it to work out. Minnesota is the most interesting to me out of the West. Both Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding seem to be in a constant battle with the injury bug and the move to Minnesota would put Miller closer to his hometown in Michigan. The Predators seem an odd landing spot, but it’s all going to depend on how hard David Poile wants to push to make the playoffs. Pekka Rinne will return at some point so does Poile want to give up assets to make a run this year? They’re outsiders for sure, but maybe Poile and Miller can quietly discuss the immediate future over some fine Russian cuisine.
When all is said and done, I believe this ends in one of three scenarios. The first scenario being something that I haven’t mentioned yet and that is the fact that Miller just might re-sign to stay in Buffalo. The Sabres will want to know before the deadline so they don’t risk losing him for nothing in July. If he does move, my top two guesses would be Minnesota and Washington. The Sabres are going to want a premium for Miller so I believe that yes, finding a trade partner is going to be difficult. The deadline is coming quickly. Will it be one of the teams I mentioned or will another organization surprise us? One more month and we should have our answer.