One of my students told me this the other day: “The Buffalo Sabres would be stupid to trade Ryan Miller. I mean, go around and ask anyone to name a player for the Sabres. I guarantee the name you hear the most is Ryan Miller. He’s like the only good player they have!”
Okay: let’s remember this is a high school student. His “the only good player” comment can be chalked up to youth, and the fact that he is not a big fan of the team. This student is a hockey player, however, so he can name players on the Sabres (and he has spoken positively about other players on the roster, including Thomas Vanek and Cody Hodgson). Overall, he knows what he is talking about, and I can see his point: Ryan Miller is the current face of the Buffalo Sabres franchise, and he is playing well for them, to boot, so why are all of these trade rumors swirling over his head?
Well, because he has made it pretty clear he wants to play out west, for one thing. That, and his contract expires at the end of next season.
Combine those facts with the reality that nothing short of five miracles will get the Sabres into the playoffs this year, and we have a scenario that does not bode well for Sabres’ fans who want to see Miller remain in blue and gold. I would be surprised to see Miller in a Sabres uniform next year, which brings me to my question: should the Buffalo Sabres be looking to acquire Mike Smith from the Phoenix Coyotes, in order to replace Ryan Miller?
Sources such as My NHL Trade Rumors say that the Coyotes and Smith are still talking about his contract, but the uncertainty of who is going to wind up owning the franchise come next season might be one of the factors that contribute to Smith being dealt to a team should the opportunity arise. A quick comparison of Smith’s and Miller’s numbers will tell you that the Sabres should start making inquiries into Smith, if they are truly leaning toward trading Ryan Miller:
Smith’s career numbers: GP W L T OT SO GA SA SV% GAA MIN
Miller’s career numbers: GP W L T OT SO GA SA SV% GAA MIN
Even though Miller is only a year older than Smith, he has obviously seen more NHL action, so his career stats (wins, saves) look a bit better, obviously. The two players are virtually indistinguishable when it comes to save percentage and GAA, though, and Smith has far less minutes logged than Miller does, so the fact that Smith is 31 should not necessarily deter the Sabres from looking at him as their next starting goaltender. Smith was also the best player on the Coyotes last season, winning 38 games for the club, and he went on to post impressive playoff numbers which included 3 shutouts, a .944 save percentage, and a GAA of 1.99. Signing Smith to a four- or even five-year deal should result in a high rate of return for the Sabres, depending on what they would have to give up (in addition to Miller) in order to acquire him.
I don’t think anyone is in love with the idea of turning the starting position over to Jhonas Enroth, even with his good play of late. Turning the sights of the franchise west, then, could be something GM Darcy Regier (or whoever holds that title come the offseason . . . ) is considering as the trade deadline nears.
What do you think – is Mike Smith an option? If so, what would you be willing to give up in order to land him? Leave your comments, or tweet them to me @theamazingMrS!