There were trade rumors swirling around Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller since the offseason and those rumors finally came to fruition as a deal with the St. Louis Blues was finally consummated earlier tonight. These are the specifics:
- To St. Louis: G Ryan Miller, F Steve Ott
- To Buffalo: G Jaroslav Halak, F Chris Stewart, F William Carrier, 2015 first-round pick, 2016 third-round pick
There’s a lot of parts to this deal so let’s start with the easy side of things first.
In Ryan Miller, the Blues get unquestionably one of the top goaltenders on the planet. The accomplishments and levels attained over his career are fairly extensive:
- Vezina Trophy winner in 2010 after a season with a .929 save percentage and 41 wins.
- Silver medal-winning goalie for Team USA at the 2010 Winter Olympics
- Since 2008, there have been 27 goaltenders with at least 200 games played. Ryan Miller is fourth on the list with a .920 overall save percentage and ahead of goalies like Pekka Rinne and Roberto Luongo.
That last bullet is especially important. It’s amazing the consistency that Ryan Miller has had in his career. Again, since 2008, these are his rankings (by season) in even-strength save percentage among goalies that started half their teams’ games: T-3rd (2009), T-5th (2010), T-10th (2011), T-17th (2012), T-12th (2013), T-9th (so far this year). So for the last six seasons, Miller has finished outside the top-12 goaltenders in even-strength save percentage once (assuming he doesn’t do so this year). He’s at the tail end of his prime right now, but might be just enough to give St. Louis the consistent goaltending they need in playoffs.
Steve Ott is a good depth centre who has been used in a top six role in Buffalo just because they didn’t have anyone else for those roles. Ott adds to a glut of centremen that St. Louis already has like David Backes, Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, Derek Roy, Maxim Lapierre and occasionally Jaden Schwartz and Alex Steen.
Here’s the key to both of these players: they’re both unrestricted free agents after this season. St. Louis will have first crack at signing both, one of, or neither of these players if they choose to. What it does do is give them six RFA/UFA forwards and two UFA goalies, though. All that aside, this move is made to make a Cup run this year and the Blues certainly achieved that with what they acquired.
The team is rebuilding completely and had to add future assets. That’s what makes this deal seem like it’s going to be one of several. TSN Insider Bob McKenzie is saying as much:
With the incoming Jaroslav Halak at the end of his contract this year as well, it wouldn’t be surprising if Buffalo tried then to flip him to maybe Minnesota or Winnipeg. Halak is still a good goaltender but he just couldn’t be relied on for playoffs and, well, Buffalo doesn’t have to worry about that for a while.
As mentioned in the tweet, Chris Stewart could also be on his way back out the door from Buffalo. Teams would be lining up to get a player like him, too:
A player with his scoring ability and his size don’t come along very often. At the age of 26, it’s also not out of the realm of impossibility that Buffalo re-signs him, either.
William Carrier is a forward prospect – and former second-round pick – that was a point-per-game player at the age of 17 in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He’s been over a PPG since, too. Judging by his Hockey’s Future profile, he has the makings of a top nine NHL power forward if all breaks right for him.
Those first and third round picks in 2015 and 2016 respectively keep stocking the cupboard for Buffalo. With the picks acquired in the Thomas Vanek trade and trades of Robyn Regehr and Jason Pominville, Buffalo has in 2014: their first round pick, New York’s first round pick (or they can defer to 2015), three second round picks. For 2015, they now have: their first round pick, New York’s (if they defer from 2014), St. Louis’s first round pick, Los Angeles’ second round pick and New York’s 2nd round pick. In short, they have 11 picks in the first two rounds of the next two drafts and still have Chris Stewart, Jaroslav Halak and Matt Moulson to trade (if they choose). There is a lot of talent coming to Buffalo in the next couple of years.
Both sides got what they wanted out of the trade: Buffalo got a pretty good haul for two expiring contracts of players in their 30s and St. Louis got the goaltending consistency they’ve been searching for.
**update: This tweet came out much later: