Enroth deal, market, setting stage for Miller

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. Continue reading

Sabres have trade chips on the wings

It’s a time of turnover in Hockey Purgatory Heaven with Lindy Ruff getting his walking papers while Jordan Leopold, Jason Pominville and Robyn Regehr each were shipped out of town before the deadline. It appears as if this summer will bring about more change via the trade market for the Sabres as they continue their rebuild.

One key for the Sabres will be finding partners as they search for options to swap out certain players. There have been specific mentions of the need to find more offense from media members in Vancouver, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Nashville. These came from either interviews or game broadcasts on the NHL Network station on XM Radio. Obviously these aren’t confirmed rumors, but the need for more established offensive weapons on certain teams isn’t a difficult conclusion to draw.

Vancouver’s second-straight first round exit have some asking if they need offensive help.

Vancouver’s sweep at the hands of the Sharks has many asking if Alain Vigneault will be back for the 2013-14 season after his team again struggled to score in a first round series defeat. The Canucks aren’t short on elite talent. The Sedins’ production has begun to tail off lately but I’d say their struggles to find talent beyond their top line has been a major issue for them. Identifying more scoring help would immediately improve the overall depth of their forward ranks.

A similar situation has been illustrated with the Kings despite the acquisition of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter last season. The Kings top six is very impressive, yet they were tied to a number of scoring forwards during the year. While the roster is deep, they continue to win close, low-scoring games on the strength of their goaltender and defense. While I don’t see where they would place a top-six forward, I can certainly understand the connection drawn to improve their offensive potency.

The Blues and the Predators immediately spring to mind for me when I think of offensively challenged Western Conference teams. However, the Blues roster would indicate anything but that. Oshie, Schwartz, Berglund, Tarasenko. This list goes on for a while and forms a youthful, talented core which has the potential to be lethal. The Blues just happen to play a measured, defensive style and don’t allow too many shots. Perhaps they need a certain $6m goaltender. But probably not.

The Preds are actually a curious case. They have two big money players (Rinne and Weber) and made moves at the 2012 deadline to find more offense. However the second Kostitsyn and Alex Radulov didn’t do the trick and now they have retooled a bit with the acquisition of Filip Forsberg. Finding another piece to add to their top six would be extremely helpful towards finding more offense for the Preds; especially after missing the playoffs.

There is a market out west for scoring forwards, there is no denying it. Perhaps the e4s and #CONFIRMEDD tweets and blog posts aren’t flying yet, but media members are looking at the teams they cover and are saying they’re in need of offense. Continue reading

Trading Miller: What teams make Ryan Miller’s no-trade list?

Trade talk surrounding Ryan Miller has never been hotter as the Sabres begin to enter a rebuild and the potential to gain a handsome return for the former Vezina Winner. Acquiring valuable assets for the goaltender has become a hot topic as many question if he will return after his contract expires next summer.

What stands in the way of dealing Miller is his limited no-trade clause. Miller is able to provide a list of eight teams that he will veto a trade to, thus limiting Darcy Regier’s options. In addition, the impressive glut of quality goaltenders around the league could further limit trade partners for the Sabres.

I assume that Regier would try to avoid a similar situation to what played out with Jarome Iginla – steering the Flames towards a trade with Pittsburgh due to his no-trade clause – and simply obtain Miller’s list of eight prior to pulling the trigger on a deal. Providing the player latitude on where he wants to go will ultimately reduce the available return in a trade, Regier wouldn’t let that happen.

However, which teams might appear on that list may be difficult to determine.I figure there are three basic groupings of teams that you can pick teams from when considering the list of teams Miller wouldn’t accept a trade to. Keeping in mind that he is in more of a “win now” mode with an expiring contract, his specific interests may be geared towards perennial contenders and avoiding teams that are in the process of building.

I categorized teams as locks (teams which he will almost certainly veto) or bubble teams (teams that likely have a red flag or two). Any other team falls onto a list where he’d welcome a trade. Here’s a closer look: Continue reading

Waiting on a surprise from Regier at the deadline

If history is to serve as a guide you can assume that Darcy Regier will make at least one fairly significant move at this year’s deadline. Perhaps a move will come in the days leading to the deadline, but Regier has made at least one move around the deadline in each of his years with the Sabres.

This year is different than most in recent memory due to the struggles on the ice and the calls for change from the fans and media. A great many are rightfully worried that Regier is not the man who should be guiding any sort of rebuilding process as he is the very architect who assembled the flawed roster that has hovered near the bottom of the league this season.

Buffalo will play a trio of games prior to the deadline and a string of losses would all but cement Regier as a seller. Granted many reports have indicated that the Sabres are willing to hear offers on the entire roster, three more losses would leave little doubt that the team will miss the playoffs yet again.

Whether or not you think Regier is the right choice to even begin retooling the Sabres roster is immaterial at this point. Fans have been calling for his head even before Lindy Ruff was fired but it is obvious that management isn’t willing to cut the cord on Regier at this point and the axe certainly won’t fall prior to Wednesday’s deadline.

Regier will indeed be the guy making and taking the calls for the Sabres on deadline day. However, he’s typically been an adept trade negotiator and has shown that his measured patience often yields the best results (see Gaustad, Paul).

I previously opined that the Sabres don’t need to enter this deadline as just sellers and I stand by that argument. This isn’t a team in the middle of a rebuild in which additional picks and prospects are the ideal return. The Sabres are a team with a flawed construction that could use a facelift. That means that hockey trades and some recycling would likely be in the best interest for the roster.

Moves like last year’s Cody Hodgson trade will allow for the Sabres to introduce pieces that can not only help in the future, but impact the roster today. Continue reading

It could be time to part ways with Ryan Miller

The clock is ticking for Darcy Regier. Not only is he likely working to save his job, he is working towards the expiration of the contracts of Jason Pominville, Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek.

Each of the player’s deals expire next summer and before he addresses any sort of negotiation Regier will need to decide which ones will be worth keeping around as the Sabres begin to transition to a new core. Of the three I think Ryan Miller is the one who could most use a change of scenery.

Based on his outbursts of frustration earlier in the year and the reality that his play will provide little support to a team that appears destined to wallow near the bottom of the Eastern Conference this season, it would appear that Miller has grown exasperated in Buffalo.

You can’t really blame him. Playing behind a lackluster team, Miller has managed to keep his save percentage well above .910 and is still sporting a sub-3.00 GAA. He has actually faced nearly 100 more shots than the next closest goalie in the league which is basically the equivalent of three more games worth of shots on goal. Continue reading

Sabres have pieces to offer at the deadline

It has been a long time since the Sabres were in a position to sell off a number of assets in the name of rebuilding the roster. As the saying goes “if Gretzky can be traded, anyone can be traded”, and that rings particularly true for the Sabres.

There is truthfully no safe player at any level of the Sabres organization as the team appears to have a serious identity issue. While the Sabres certainly can come at the deadline with more than just a seller’s mentality, there is likely going to be more heading out the door than coming back in.

When I look at the Sabres I see a team with some impressive top-end talent, and abundance of “middle-six” players and impressive depth along the blueline. Buffalo’s greatest strength is in the goal crease and with talented, young forwards. What they lack is a proper identity amongst their four NHL lines as a relative hodgepodge of players has made up the 23-man roster with no discernible identity on any of the lines.

Robyn Regehr is one of the potential trade targets who could be shipped at the deadline.

There are basically three categories that Darcy Regier is going to group his players into by April 3; For Sale; Available; Untouchable. Players that are “For Sale” typically include your rental players and anyone who may have requested a trade. “Available” players are just that, players who aren’t being shopped but are still available for the right price. Lastly, you have the “Untouchable” category which was previously a well-populated list which has likely dwindled to almost nothing. Sure the Sabres have some assets that they’re not likely to part with, but there probably isn’t any more than one or two names who are considered untouchable.The key to remember here is that the Sabres aren’t in need of a proper rebuild in which they attempt to acquire mounds of draft picks. They’re in need of a retooling that will help forge a new identity and reshape specific portions of the roster. This isn’t a long term effort so much as a project that will probably truly begin bearing fruit in two or three seasons. So anyone worth keeping around will need to be capable of being a consistent contributor over the next 3-5 seasons.But who fits where? Continue reading

Sabres could be both buyers and sellers at the deadline

As the NHL Trade Deadline looms near, rumors will certainly heat up and talk around all teams will center on the players that are set to be moved an acquired.

Things are different for the Sabres than they have been in recent years. After three-straight seasons of lurking in contention near the deadline, Darcy Regier was often in a position to deal for assets that would potentially put his team over the top and help power a late playoff push. This year, the Sabres have languished at the bottom of the league and appear to be in the position to sell rather than buying.

One terrifying thought, however, is that the lockout-shortened season has left the standings in a tangled mess with most teams no more than a few points from jumping into contention. The Sabres enter tonight’s contest with the Rangers in such a position. A seven-point gap separates the Sabres from the final playoff spot in the East; that is a gap that could arguably be covered with a four or five-game run.

Knowing that Darcy Regier has been slow to sell off assets while being “in contention” makes me wonder if he will be slow to pull the trigger on potential deals. He is also going to be trading to save his job, so he may not have the luxury of the ultra-calculated approach that has allowed him to “win” numerous trades over the course of his career.

The first half of the season for the Sabres has been ugly, to say the least. The roster is flawed and it is clear that some players need a change of scenery while others will likely be walking as free agents come season’s end. The firing of Lindy Ruff signals that Regier’s days are likely numbered unless he can lead a quick turnaround by overhauling portions of the roster.

The Sabres, however, don’t just need to be sellers at the deadline. This won’t just be a firesale of every potential UFA in hopes of stockpiling draft picks to restock the prospect cupboards. While the Sabres will certainly be selling off many parts, they can still deal from a buyers position in some ways.

Obviously Robyn Regehr and Jordan Leopold will be on the radar of many teams as short-term rentals. Drew Stafford’s rumored proclamation of “welcoming a trade” certainly puts him at the front of the parade out of Buffalo as well. Other names will likely crop up as Regier is basically faced with a decision of overhauling this flawed roster or packing up his office at the end of the year. Still, it doesn’t mean that Regier is selling off parts without considering NHL-ready return. Continue reading