It was a long speculated deal that finally came to fruition. Late Friday night, the Buffalo Sabres pulled the trigger on a deal that saw long-time goaltender, Ryan Miller, and Sabres captain, Steve Ott, traded to the St. Louis Blues for Jaroslav Halak, Chris Stewart, prospect William Carrier and two draft picks. Miller was one of the more coveted players heading into the March 5 trade deadline, and the return for him was expected to be high. The St. Louis Blues found just the right pieces to entice Sabres GM, Tim Murray, to trade his goaltender in a deal that works for both sides.
The advantage for the Blues is obvious. Ryan Miller is one of the league’s best goaltenders and has been for years. St. Louis is preparing itself for a deep Stanley Cup run and they acquired a goaltender that has performed at the highest level. Miller was named the most valuable player in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, leading the United States to the silver medal. He also has experience in the NHL playoffs, having gone to the Eastern Conference Finals twice with Buffalo. The other piece heading to the Blues, Steve Ott, is a physical veteran that can do it all. He hits, he fights, and he can contribute on the scoreboard as well. The St. Louis Blues acquired two pieces that make them the easy favorite to win the Cup coming out of the Western conference.
St. Louis’s general manager, Doug Armstrong, believes that to be the case. In a press conference held after the trade, Armstrong stated that the organization thinks the trade gives them a better chance for success this year, that he is thrilled with the thought of the grit and determination of a player Steve Ott brings to a team, and that Miller’s resume “speaks for itself.” Murray said both sides discussed the trade for quite a while before deciding the time was right on Friday night.
The deal involves two recent Olympians, with Miller again representing the United States in the Sochi Olympic games and Jaroslav Halak representing the Czech Republic. Miller said he got to know a lot of the Blues players when they both played for the United States and that he is looking forward to joining a group with “a strong competitive spirit.” He also thanked the people of Western New York, saying that they made Buffalo and Rochester a great place to live and play.
The Buffalo Sabres made this trade to kickstart a rebuild. They have one of the worst records in the league, and their sights are set on highly touted prospect in the upcoming draft, Connor McDavid. They have their own first round pick to grab McDavid if he is available and the two draft picks they acquired in this trade can be packaged together for a move up the draft board or another solid prospect. The NHL players they picked up in this deal, Jaroslav Halak and Chris Stewart, are great players in their own right. But if the Sabres are going to commit to this rebuild, Halak and Stewart are likely going to flipped before the deadline to another team. Rumors have the Ottawa Senators and Minnesota Wild as possible destinations for the two players.
Trades like this one on this scale are rare in the NHL. Usually, one side is at a disadvantage in trade talks and the opposing general managers take advantage of that fact all too often. But the Ryan Miller trade works for all sides. Ryan Miller avoids the Buffalo rebuild and gets his best chance to win the Cup, St. Louis becomes a favorite out of the Western conference, and Buffalo gets picks, prospects and players that can easily be flipped to begin their rebuild.
This article is one in a series, presented daily, which provides coverage, analysis, and projections for NHL fans.
By Jonathan Gardner