BUFFALO, N.Y. — Sabres general manager Jason Botterill disputed the speculation that adding defenceman Colin Miller in a trade with Vegas directly leads to Buffalo subtracting another defenceman such as Rasmus Ristolainen.
“There’s going to be rumours because he’s a player teams want to go after and teams want to have,” Botterill told reporters Saturday, a day after acquiring Miller.
“I think there’s always a demand for those,” he said, referring to Miller and Ristolainen both being right-shot defenceman and playing under reasonably priced contracts. “I’m never going to be in a situation where I complain about too much depth.”
Miller Gives Sabres Blue Line Depth
The Sabres suddenly have plenty of talent on defence after Miller became expendable in Vegas as a result of the salary cap-crunch facing the Golden Knights and their over-extended payroll. In acquiring a fourth-year player who combined for 13 goals and 70 points over his past two seasons, Buffalo gave up a 2021 second-round and 2022 fifth-round draft pick.
Miller has three years left on the $15.5 million contract he signed last summer.
Aside from Ristolainen, Miller joins a group of defenceman that includes rookie of the year finalist Rasmus Dahlin, Brandon Montour, Zach Bogosian, Marco Scandella and restricted free agent Jake McCabe.
“Right now, to me, this gives us options,” Botterill said. “We wanted to improve our competition and improve our depth, and that’s why we made the move.”
Ristolainen is the Sabres’ workhorse after topping 24 minutes of ice time per game for the fourth consecutive season last year. He has three years left on a six-year $32.4 million contract.
Injuries are an issue, with Bogosian (hip) and Lawrence Pilut (shoulder) both expected to miss the start of next season.
Miller’s Mixed Emotions
Miller had what he called mixed emotions about being traded.
He’s going to miss Vegas, where he led the team’s defencemen with 41 points (10 goals, 31 assists) in the Golden Knights’ inaugural season two years ago. On the upside, Miller looks to establish himself in a larger role with the Sabres after having an up-and-down season last year.
Another plus for Miller is he’ll no longer worry about being mentioned in trade rumours.
“I won’t be looking over my shoulder now at what Vegas is doing,” he said. “Your focused on the opportunity that you now have moving forward. It’s definitely a good one here.”
Newly hired Sabres coach Ralph Krueger noted Miller fits his style of play, which is similar to the Golden Knights’ speedy, aggressive approach. With the Sabres in the midst of an eight-year playoff drought, Krueger also noted Miller having extensive playoff experience, including Vegas’ run to the Stanley Cup Final a year ago.
Other Sabres Notes
The Sabres top draft pick, centre Dylan Cozens, will see a specialist Monday after hurting his left thumb during a three-on-three scrimmage in the final day of Buffalo’s rookie development camp. Cozens said the visit is precautionary and his thumb is not broken. … Cozens, selected seventh overall, is planning to return to his home in Canada’s Yukon Territory capital of Whitehorse to spend the summer. … “It’s going to be pretty crazy,” Cozens said of the reception he expects after being only the third Yukon-born player ever drafted. “Those are the people who helped me get where I am. And I’m going to give back to them for sure.”
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John Wawrow, The Associated Press