The continuing fire-sale of the Buffalo Sabres his hit another level as the team dealt USA goaltender Ryan Miller and captain Steve Ott to the St. Louis Blues for Slovakian goalie Jaroslav Halak and power forward Chris Stewart. The deal looks to make the Blues a potential favorite for the Stanley Cup.
The trade of Miller has been long-rumored and there were many different suitors, but the Blues ended up being the winner of the Miller sweepstakes. St. Louis made the move to try and keep up with the defending Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks. Remember, the playoff format has changed and teams will have to play divisional playoffs to get to the Western Conference final and beyond.
Goaltending has been considered a weakness to the contending Blues team, but they had three OK goalies in Halak, Brian Elliot and Jake Allen. Elliot and Allen are younger netminders and haven’t been tested in a big spot. The addition of Miller could give St. Louis the stability in net that they’ve been desperately seeking.
Let’s also not forget the addition Steve Ott. He’s been a locker room leader and a gritty player and does have some offensive skill. He won’t have to bear the burden of producing offense as he’ll probably be put onto the third line. Ott is also a known agitator that can get under the skin of the opposition.
The Sabres get back a guy that has been number one in Halak and is capable of stringing together some solid performances. However, he has been struggling for some reason and not been the dominant goalie that he was for a couple of seasons in Montreal. Halak is also an unrestricted free agent and will probably walk at the end of the year. Halak probably doesn’t want to have to fight for a starting spot against a guy like Jhonas Enroth that has been doing everything in his power to try and nail down the number one job.
Chris Stewart is a power forward, but has not had the ice time that he was getting in the last couple of season. Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz have been chewing up the ice time, but Stewart has made the most of his chances as he’s got 15 goals this season. Stewart still has one more year left on his deal at a price of just over $4 million.
The Sabres may also try to flip these players before the 3 p.m. Wednesday deadline for younger players or more draft picks. (That seems to be the recurring theme for all Buffalo area sports teams.) I think Stewart would be a nice addition for the Sabres and they should make an effort to try and sign him because he could be a good top-six forward for the team.
Miller and Ott are also free agents at the end of the season like Halak. Ott event talked about possibly wanting to come back to Buffalo when July 1 rolls around. Miller is a whole different story, but he was emotional in his farewell press conference. Miller probably wanted to move, but he’ll never forget how important he was to the Sabres organization.
This could only be the beginning of the moving of pieces as we close in on the deadline. The last few deadlines have been lackluster, but this one could turn out to be one of the most active and star-studded trading periods in the history of the NHL.
Whatever the case, it won’t be the Chris Vinz Era in Buffalo.
Dan Mount is an NHL writer for TJRSports.com. He is based out Watertown. NY. He can be reached on Twitter @DanMountSports