Ryan Miller has accomplished a lot since being drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the ’99 Draft. He won a Vezina Trophy for his play in the ’09-’10 season, backstopped the United States to a Silver Medal at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver and has solidified himself as one of the leagues elite goaltenders.
Since taking over the starting job for the Sabres in ’05, Miller has carried a heavy load for the Sabres playing 442 games, and has helped get the Sabres to the playoffs four times, which included two consecutive trips to the Eastern Conference Finals in the ’05-’06 and ’06-’07 seasons.
However, in the NHL when a dominant goalie’s play starts to drop off it is not unlikely for the front offices to dump off the end of the goalie’s contract in order to try to bring in a piece or two while the goalie still has a good amount of trade value to his name.
Is that what Sabres’ General Manager, Darcy Regier, should consider doing this offseason?
Miller is signed for two more seasons with a salary cap hit of $6.25 million for each of his remaining two seasons, a very doable accommodation for most teams.
The Sabres could make an attempt at fixing some of their offensive woes, their struggles down the middle especially, should they put Miller’s name on the trading block.
A few teams, like the Lightning, are in need of some support between the pipes and could send some useful veteran leadership in exchange for Miller.
The biggest factor that will go into whether or not Miller is shopped around is the capability of backup goalie, Jhonas Enroth. Enroth posted a .917 save percentage with a 2.70 goals against average in 26 games played last season, numbers that aren’t quite up to par with the standards that come with a number one goalie.
Sure, Miller may have had a hard time at the beginning of last season. But, a lot of that should be tied to the concussion he suffered from Milan Lucic steam rolling him in early November, which caused Miller to miss nearly a month of play.
The Sabres did make a late push for the playoffs, ultimately missing the postseason by just two points. Miller was perhaps the biggest factor in that end of the season surge, winning 15 of his last 22 starts, and looked to be back to his Vezina winning form in doing so.
Miller’s play at the end of the season is what Regier and the Sabres’ management should base their decision on, primarily
because it seemed like Miller did not have his head on straight in the early portion of the season and the period soon after his return from his concussion. Miller’s end of the season rebound showed that he can still be a dominant goalie for the Sabres and this should keep him around for at least another season.
Does this mean the Sabres keep Miller for the entirety of his career, no. If a can’t miss offer comes up for Miller, Sabres management should really consider how much longer Miller will be at the top of his game and how soon they should look to the future of the Sabres.
But for now, Miller should be safe.
Eric received his BA in Journalism from California State University, Northridge. Eric has contributed to RinkRoyalty.com, Buffalowdown.com and California Rubber Magazine.