Murph’s Musings: Blues Better Win Cup For Price They Paid For Miller

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Jasen Vinlove USA TODAY Sports

Well, if there was any doubt that the St. Louis Blues are in Stanley Cup or bust mode, they made it abundantly clear Friday night they are. The Blues got a head start on the March 5 trade deadline and turned all the Ryan Miller to St. Louis rumors that have been percolating over the last two months into a reality. The Blues acquired the longtime Buffalo netminder and forward Steve Ott in exchange for goaltender Jaroslav Halak, forward Chris Stewart, forward prospect William Carrier, a first-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft if the Blues make the Western Conference Finals or Miller resigns with the Blues or a 2015 first round pick if neither happens, and a third-round pick in 2016.

Both Miller and Ott are unrestricted free agents and while the Blues could very well have a strong sense they can re-sign Miller, the key component in the deal from their side, there are no guarantees that he or Ott will resign in St. Louis instead of hitting the open market on July 1. So to give up what they did, clearly means that Blues GM Doug Armstrong and his staff feel they were a goalie away from making the deep run many already felt they were capable of with Halak and Brian Elliott. But it’s been reported lately that they had lost faith in Halak so hence this major bounty they paid for the 2010 Vezina Trophy winner and the goalie that had the United States one goal away from a gold medal that year. The next few months will tell if it was worth it for Armstrong and the Blues but give him credit; he showed his team and his fans he wants to bring the city their first Stanley Cup or even their first conference championship.

While this move will obviously generate buzz in St. Louis and hopefully increase what has been a struggling attendance rate for such a good team, the move should also be viewed positively in the Buffalo area for a fan base that has never wavered despite so many forgettable seasons for the Sabres. When Pat LaFontaine was hired as President of Hockey Operations it sent a message that owner Terry Pegula wasn’t going to just stand by anymore and watch this proud organization go down the tubes. LaFontaine is a winner, is a class act and is a smart hockey man. Since taking over, he has kept his promises of surrounding himself with similar hockey minds hiring Tim Murray as the new general manager and Craig Patrick and an advisor. Word out of the Buffalo organization is that Ryan Miller didn’t want to stick around for a rebuild so this new brain trust of the Sabres carefully fielded offers and got what could turn out to be a better than expected return for Miller.

As news of the trade broke, TSN Insider Bob McKenzie noted on Twitter that he had heard from multiple sources that there was a three-way deal involving these players between the Blues, Sabres and Senators being discussed in recent days and suggested that the Sabres still may flip Halak to the Minnesota Wild and Stewart to the Senators, for prospects Murray is very familiar with from his time as assistant GM there for the last seven years. The Sabres already have an additional first round pick in either 2014 or 2015 from the Thomas VanekMatt Moulson deal as well as three second round picks in this year’s draft. Now they may be able to acquire more prospects and picks with Stewart and Halak and even if they don’t and keep one or both of Stewart and Halak, that’s not a bad return for two players you knew you weren’t resigning. Chances are they’re not done dealing other players from their roster too. Also Oilers GM Craig MacTavish said this past week that he would like to get back some second and third round picks via trades so it wouldn’t be surprising if he gives Murray a call in the coming days with the trio of second rounders the sabers have. Clearly the rebuild has begun with a fury in Buffalo and if Sabres fans can be patient they may have a very young and skilled team within 2-3 years.

As stated above the Blues are clearly going for it here and having never won a Cup and being a legit contender this and the last two years, who can blame them? But as one NHL executive texted to Murph’s Musings minutes after news of the trade broke: “Blues gave up too much. I would’ve got Thomas.” To be honest, the feel here was the Blues did indeed give up too much but also that they still could’ve gotten Miller for less. But the Thomas idea was very intriguing. St. Louis most definitely wouldn’t have had to part with as much for Thomas who has faired pretty well behind a porous defense in Florida and they would not only be getting another former Vezina winner in Thomas who won the trophy in 2011 but also a Conn Smythe winner that has proven to be a much better clutch goalie than Miller. It will be interesting to see if Thomas does end up somewhere before the deadline but Panthers GM Dale Tallon did say last Saturday that he’d like to bring Thomas back for another season.

Either way though, the Blues need to at least make it to the Stanley Cup finals, if not win, to make what they paid for Miller and Ott worth it. The Sabres on the other hand are wasting no time in fulfilling their promise to rebuild their once proud franchise.

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James Murphy
Jimmy Murphy has covered the NHL in print, radio and television for the last 13 years. In addition to his work here at, he currently hosts The Top Shelf Radio Show heard every Monday-Friday 1-3 PM ET on and 2-3 PM ET on Sirius/XM NHL Network Radio.