Rumors of the Buffalo Sabres trading Ryan Miller continue to persist. For the past few weeks, the buzz coming out of Buffalo has revolved around the Sabres possibly shopping their franchise goaltender. As the NHL trade deadline looms the rumor mill has begun to churn in overdrive.
Yesterday evening, Daren Millard of Roger’s Sportsnet linked Miller’s name with a possible deal to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning have been in dire need of goaltending for quite sometime now, so trading for one of the league’s premier goalies would make sense.
It’s first important to point out that Sabres GM Darcy Regier will only be interested in moves that will help the team for years to come (according to Craig Custance’s ESPN.com blog). Regier’s recent trade deadline history definitely suggests that strategy as Regier acquired current first line center Cody Hodgson and traded fan favorite Paul Gaustad for a first round pick before last year’s deadline. Seeing as how the Sabres’ star forward Thomas Vanek currently has an upper body injury and the Sabres are 5 points out of the playoff race and entering a tough six game stretch, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Regier pulled the trigger on a deal involving Miller. What might the Sabres seek in return for the 32 year old goaltender?
Regier will probably target an NHL ready talent as the centerpiece of any Miller deal. The Lightning have two guys that could be nice chips. The first is right winger Cory Conacher. Conacher has been a very nice surprise for the Lightning this year scoring 24 points while only averaging 14 1/2 minutes in ice time and is currently considered a candidate for the Calder Trophy. Conacher was an undrafted free agent signing out of Canisius College, which means the Lightning may be more willing to trade him because of the small investment they made in him (it is not as if he was a former first round pick).
Conacher may be a bit of a pipe-dream seeing as how he has exploded onto the scene. The Sabres could also target forward Alex Killorn. Killorn was a third round pick in the 2007 NHL Draft. Killorn had 36 points this year for the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch before being called up for the past 23 games with the Lightning. Projected as a second line center, Killorn is known for his offensive playmaking ability and has decent size at 6′ 1″ and 200 lbs. His ice time has also steadily increased over the past five games.
Personally, I don’t see the Sabres trading for a defender or goaltender, which is good because the Lightning are short on both and the Sabres have more than enough young defensemen. New Sabres head coach Ron Rolston is known as the former head coach for the United States National Team Development Program so he clearly knows how to develop young talent. While it would be sad to see Miller leave, it may be the right move to allow the Sabres to enter into a rebuilding phase and reward Miller by giving him a legitimate shot at competing for a Stanley Cup.