A lot has changed for the Buffalo Sabres over the last calendar year. When last season’s short schedule began there was hope the team would make the playoffs and everything would come together. However, a poor 2013 forced management’s hand at rebuilding. At last year’s trade deadline the club traded captain Jason Pominville and it became clear, the Sabres were going to revamp the traditional way and try to build a winner through the draft.
The Sabres drafted six times in the first three-rounds of the 2013 NHL entry draft. By the time the 2014 draft transpires, the Sabres could possess twice as many picks as last year. They are liquidating.
Thomas Vanek was dealt to the New York Islanders in the first month of this season, earning the club two more high picks. A few weeks later, GM Darcy Regier was fired after seventeen years of service, and along with him went head coach Ron Rolston. Much of the Sabres core from as recently as a year ago has been traded, or is rumoured to be on the move.
Of the remaining Sabres’ vets, goaltender Ryan Miller is by far the best player the club can trade – he’ll earn the largest return. However, just because a great player is worth a lot via trade doesn’t necessarily mean he should be traded. I bet the Edmonton Oilers, New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins wished they had a netminder like Miller. And I’d also be willing to wager if they did, they wouldn’t let him go, regardless of where they are in terms of Stanley Cup contender status.
According to a Buffalo News article, “interim coach Ted Nolan said he wanted to build around Miller and not use him as an asset to deal.” Obviously, the choice is not Nolan’s to make. That being said, Nolan’s belief in keeping Miller around is possibly shared by his new boss, Pat Lafontaine, and could be agreed upon by a new general manager when one is finally hired.
Keeping Miller in Buffalo is not a bad idea for obvious reasons – he’s one of the best goalies in the world. However, when July 1st of next summer rolls around, Miller may walk as a free agent, leaving the Sabres empty handed. Thus, well before this season’s trade deadline, the Sabres new GM along with Pat Lafontaine will need to communicate with Miller about his future. If he isn’t willing to stay, the Sabres must deal him for the biggest package they can retain.