The writing appears to be on the wall. Jhonas Enroth’s two-year, $1.25M extension signifies an investment in the young Swede and with Matt Hackett expected to sign an extension of his own soon enough it would appear that the Sabres are prepared to move on without Ryan Miller.
This should surprise exactly no one as the relationship between Miller and the organization (fans and media too) appeared to be slowly fraying last season as the Sabres spiraled to the bottom of the Conference. As the season came to a close most assumed that Miller’s 500th would be his final game as a Sabre.
If both Enroth and Hackett sign it would represent not only the changing of the guard in the Buffalo goal crease, but a culture shift away from a big-money, number one netminder to a 1A, 1B tandem between Hackett and Enroth.
Assuming Hackett gets somewhere in the neighborhood of $925K, Buffalo will have just over $2M invested in their goal crease. Add in the looming trade of Miller and winds up being a savings in the $4M range. For a team with a decent amount of cap space to begin with, that is a huge amount of wiggle room.
With an additional four million in space to fiddle with, Darcy Regier could begin to get even more aggressive in free agency – which may be vital considering the shallow market – in an effort to improve his team. The additional space also allows for the Sabres to take on additional salary in trade negotiations which may end up being a more realistic option than overpaying in a weak free agent pool.
Finding a dance partner to take Miller is going be tougher than most of the other decisions Regier will make this season. As I theorized a couple of months back, there are only handful of teams who could really be in the market for Miller. Personally, I think the Islanders would be a great fit and that even Phoenix could be a potential destination (ownership issues pending).
If Miller does indeed want to get out of town, he can help expedite matters by not choosing to exercise his no-trade clause (or by limiting the teams he chooses for it). I think a realistic scenario would see Miller list four or five teams that he does not wish to go to, leaving the door open for Regier to negotiate with the 25 remaining organizations.
One other thing to consider is that Miller will most likely net at least one NHL ready prospect or a roster player in exchange for his services. With a roster filled with various holes, the cap savings along with potential return brought about by trading Miller is going to allow for some solid maneuvering by Regier. Or, perhaps, it will provide Regier the latitude for some solid maneuvering. Whether or not he succeeds will be subject to review.
I’d like to think that Regier will be able to execute a trade on Miller prior to next Sunday’s draft, but after seeing the return the Kings received for Jonathan Bernier, I doubt that Regier will be quick to come to an agreement simply because he’s such a judicious trader.
My money is on a second round pick and something between a well-respected prospect or capable NHL veteran. For those who think he can be a cog for another first round pick, you’re sorely mistaken.