Thomas Vanek is gone. Ryan Miller should be the next out Buffalo’s door. And soon.
Here’s why Sabres general manager Darcy Regier would be wise to trade his 33-year-old star goalie ASAP:
—- Despite a 1-9-0 record, Miller actually has pretty good numbers (.914 SV%). That’s something Regier can sell to other GMs. In fact, no goalie in the entire NHL has made more saves (328) than Miller has in 2013-14. (Buffalo gives up a ton of shots, if you haven’t noticed.) Regier may want to take advantage of Miller’s numbers now, while they’re still respectable, because there’s a chance they may not be for long, and that would obviously make it harder to get good value in a deal.
—- Teams that aren’t getting good goaltending (like, say, Edmonton) could be all but eliminated from playoff contention by March 5, the NHL’s trade deadline. Miller is a pending unrestricted free agent. If he’s traded as a rental (i.e. without a contract extension in place) like Vanek was, there should theoretically be more potential destinations now, when teams still have hope of making a comeback, than later, when hope has been extinguished.
—- Miller isn’t the only goalie that’s the subject of trade speculation. For example, Anaheim may end up moving Jonas Hiller. Similar to the point made above, Regier doesn’t want to be left trying to trade an asset nobody needs anymore. Ask the Vancouver Canucks how holding out for a better offer worked for them in the case of Roberto Luongo. Very different contract situations, obviously. But the point remains. The goalie market is a unique one. It can dry up real fast.
—- If Miller’s not going to re-sign with the Sabres (and you never know, but it really doesn’t look that way), why wait to sever the relationship? At some point, a new leadership group will need to emerge in Buffalo, and 25-year-old Jhonas Enroth has played well enough to take over starting duties for the rest of the season. With all the talk and speculation, the Miller situation is a big distraction for a team that needs far fewer of those.
There’s another Raffl in the NHL.
On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.
Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.
“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.
With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.
For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.
Seven defensemen will comprise the Philadelphia Flyers’ opening-day roster, which the club finalized today.
Those seven are Radko Gudas, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Brandon Manning, Mark Streit, and Evgeny Medvedev.
Not on the list? Andrew MacDonald, who has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Lehigh Valley. (That move allowed the Flyers to keep both Manning and youngster Scott Laughton.)
Also not on the list were prospects Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim. The first three will start the season in the AHL. The last two have been sent back to junior.
But the opening-day roster is not where this story ends. How the Flyers’ defensive mix changes as the season progresses will be worth watching.
They’d no doubt love to move Schenn, a pending unrestricted free agent with a $3.6 million cap hit. He could also end up in the AHL, a la MacDonald.
Medvedev, the 33-year-old who came over from the KHL and put up five points in five preseason games, is another pending UFA. The club could either look to re-sign or flip him.
Might 37-year-old Streit be a chip worth cashing in at the deadline, especially if the Flyers aren’t in a playoff position on Feb. 29? He’s only got two years left on his contract.
Meanwhile, GM Ron Hextall will be watching pending restricted free agents Manning and Gudas closely. Are they part of the future?
So, lots of decisions to make in Philly as the blue line continues its much-needed transition.