The Buffalo Sabres have been damn lucky when it comes to goaltending during Lindy Ruff‘s tenure. How many times has the team been bailed out by an Olympic medal goaltender, from the golden days of dominant Dominik Hasek to dormant Silver Medalist Ryan Miller?
There is a crossroads coming however, that could pose a serious problem for the Buffalo Blue and Gold when it comes to not only the guy who will spend more time opening the door on the bench for a line change – as well as the primary crease guard.
How much longer will Ryan Miller tirelessly give or not give his all for the Blue and Gold that drafted him in the 5th round of the 1999 entry draft (138th overall)? Ryan Miller got a huge pay increase to be the main man, the face of the franchise in Buffalo – but he has been a victim of his own circumstance, as well as of the team in front of him. While Ryan Miller still has another year on his contract before he can test free agency, the Buffalo Sabres might want to think about the long term plans and Ryan Miller. If you don’t think he will resign in Buffalo when he hits the open market – you need to trade him. If he doesn’t fit into your long term plans for being a Stanley Cup contender, then you need to trade him. I have no doubt that Miller will resign in Buffalo – unless he gets a lucrative offer from another city that might just be closer to lifting silver in June.
Jhonas Enroth is the mystery man in the equation. In his first professional contract – he went from valuable asset to crease liability, now having not been able to get a win in 15 starts in net. His stock in the National Hockey league has little value, and only an impressive run will bring that back – everyone has a rough stretch right? Jhonas Enroth is not a starting goaltender for the National Hockey League. If he is displeased with the situation in Buffalo, you could see the team not tender a contract this year, allowing him to
become an unrestricted free agent, or try and trade his rights akin to how they were able to acquire Christian Erhoff – to a team that is need of what could be a solid backup goaltender. Call it the Marty complex, but Enroth’s career is going to be very similar to the last Buffalo Sabres goaltender, who at one time was the anointed future star of the blue paint, only to languish in the Sabres one goalie system.
David Leggio has been the Ryan Miller for the Rochester Americans. In just his second season in Rochester – he is carrying the lion’s share of starts for the red, white, and blue. Undrafted – but signed by the Buffalo Sabres – he is a local legend and favorite, hailing from a suburb of Buffalo – but is unlikely an NHL product. The reason? How do you feel about Ryan Miller’s career numbers? They are eerily similar (in the NHL) for what Leggio puts up in the net in the AHL. Leggio could find himself backing up the starter in Buffalo – if the Sabres are looking to save salary cap space and have the guy only stand in relief 10-12 times a year in a full season.
Connor Knapp was selected in the 6th round of the 2009 NHL Entry draft by the Buffalo Sabres, and was with the Rochester Americans until recently. Following a seven game stint in the Flower City and allowing 23 goals, the Amerks have loaned Knapp to the Greenville Road Warriors of the ECHL for additional training. He has yet to suit up for a game in Greenville.
Backing up David Leggio currently in Rochester is 21 year old Nathan Lieuwen, the Buffalo Sabres sixth round draft selection in the 2011 NHL Entry draft.
Andrey Makarov is making headlines with the Saskatoon Blades, winning 4 out of 5 contests last week. Makarov also performed well for Team Russia in the IIHF World Juniors in Ufa, Russia just a month ago. Makarov may not be NHL ready yet, but the depth of goaltending the Buffalo Sabres have is preparing the Rochester Americans more than the parent club.
Who is the Buffalo Sabres goaltender of the future – and will they bring about a Stanley Cup to the Nickel City?