The Buffalo Sabres look to have cleaned up in their trade of Ryan Miller to the St. Louis Blues, even if their haul isn't as great as they might have hoped.
Miller surrendered four third-period goals in Sunday's 5-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. The loss eliminated the Blues from the first round of the playoffs in six games.
Miller and Sabres fans alike were sad to see him traded this past spring. But the moved seemed to benefit both sides at the time. Buffalo needed young bodies and draft picks for the future, while the Blues seemingly needed a top-flight goalie to carry them to the promised land.
But that didn't come to be. His numbers improved somewhat after the trade, but they weren't stellar as one would have though, given the Blues' cache of talent (10-8-1 record, .903 save percentage, 2.47 GAA). And they dipped even more in the playoffs (2.70 GAA, .897 save percentage).
And while the Blues' offense disappeared in the playoffs, coach Ken Hitchcock also seemingly put some of the blame on Miller for Sunday's collapse:
"The third goal was really a backbreaker for us. That was really the one that hurt because we've been chasing all series and been able to catch up in games, but the third goal really took the wind out of our sails … We played a great first two periods. I thought the third goal, you could see a big sag on the team after that."
That performance also puts a sag on Miller's hopes for one last long-term contract. The 34-year-old is coming off his worst two seasons of his career and has never regained his 2010 Vezina-winning form. He hasn't won a playoff series since 2007.
That he couldn't reach a deal with the Sabres (assuming one was there to be had) may come back to bite him as free agency looms, especially because he did little with the Blues to warrant their retaining him.
"We'll see how they feel about me," he said. "I like St. Louis. I like the guys. I like the team."
The fact the Blues didn't reach the Western Conference finals costs the Sabres a first-round pick this summer. But they still get the Blues' No. 1 pick next season, as well as a second- or third-rounder in 2016 as part of the trade. Buffalo also sent Steve Ott to St. Louis and got back Chris Stewart, prospect William Carrier and Jaroslav Halak, who was quickly traded to the Washington Capitals for Michal Neuvirth.
So for an aging goalie and a gritty but offensively challenged forward, Buffalo got two picks, a decent second- or third-line wing, a prospect and a goalie who's nine years younger than Miller and will compete with Jhonas Enroth for the No. 1 job in 2014-15.
That doesn't seem too bad.
No knock on Miller. He's at least the second-best goalie ever to wear a Sabres uniform, is the franchise's all-time leader in wins and was the absolute soul of the team for upwards of a decade.
But sports are cruel when it comes to Father Time. He always wins. And it seems he's winning his battle against Miller's stardom.
Someone will sign him this summer, but it won't be for a lot of years or a ton of money. The Sabres and their fans should be thankful they got what they did for him.
Tags: Buffalo, Buffalo Sabres, Chicago Blackhawks, Hockey, Jaroslav Halak, Jhonas Enroth, Ken Hitchcock, NHL, Ryan Miller, St. Louis Blues, Steve Ott
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