Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Why Ryan Miller May Be Willing to Stay in Buffalo

Remember all the drama surrounding Ryan Miller and the Buffalo Sabres last season? It was a hectic season that resulted in the netminder selling his house and hugging each of his teammates one-by-one after the final buzzer. At the end of last season it truly seemed like the curtain had set on Ryan Miller‘s time in Buffalo. It was clear that Miller wanted out. At age 33 Miller isn’t getting any younger and would like a shot to play on a true Stanley Cup contender before his career is up and with Buffalo heading into a rebuild, now seemed like the perfect time to send Miller packing. Unfortunately for Miller, he couldn’t have picked a worse time to look for a new home in the NHL.

When you look around the NHL you realize there are very few openings for a starting goaltender. Few openings and a tight cap space make it hard for goaltenders like Ryan Miller to find work. After not being moved in the offseason and seeing the Roberto Luongo circus, Miller says staying in Buffalo may not be so bad;

“I’m not closed off to the possibility. I’m not going to close too many avenues at this point.” ~ Ryan Miller on re-signing with the Sabres.

The goaltending market is tough. A lot of the openings have already been filled; The New Jersey Devils picked up Cory Schneider to succeed Martin Brodeur, the Leafs now have two young goaltenders in Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer, Roberto Luongo will be staying in Vancouver and even Ray Emery is attempting to stop the Philadelphia Flyers rotating crease. Two teams that might make a bid on Miller are the San Jose Sharks and New York Islanders, but do either have the cap space?

Unfortunately for Ryan Miller he picked the absolute worst time to be looking for a new crease as the majority already have a netminder.

The goalie market around the NHL is pretty dead with a lot of teams sticking with what they have in their system and the ever-changing cap, fewer and fewer teams are willing to shell out the money. After an offseason with few bites, Ryan Miller will be back in blue and gold next season.

So does Ryan Miller really want to stay in Buffalo long-term? No. It’s clear Miller wants out of Buffalo; He put his house up for sale and gave a very convincing goodbye to all his teammates at the end of last season. He’s tired of the media, the lack of support from his teammates and the lack of success the Sabres have had. He clearly wants out, but he’s not stupid either. Miller knows the goaltending jobs in the NHL are few and far between and burning bridges with the Sabres won’t help him in finding a new home and re-signing a one-year deal might not be horrible.

Miller finds himself in a tough spot. He’s one of the top goalies in the NHL but has been victimized by atrocious defence and as a result has seen his stock plummet. While Miller has been “sliding” other goalies have been climbing the ranks and now his spot with team USA is in jeopardy. But he’s still the same goaltender who nearly shocked the world at the 2010 Olympics and went on to win the Vezina trophy.  Put Miller behind a team with half decent defence and you’ll see him back in the top 5 of NHL goaltenders. A goalie can steal a game and put the team on his back, which Miller has done many a time while in Buffalo, but at some point they need some help and that help hasn’t come in Buffalo. Miller gives his team a chance to win night in and night out, he instantly improves any team and is the type of goaltender who can turn a pretender into a contender. More good news, at 33 Miller isn’t that old for a goaltender. Goaltenders usually hit their prime later in their careers, so he has around 5 more years left in the tank.

This season will be a big one for Miller. He’s in the last year of his contract and will be battling hard to earn back his spot for Sochi
2014. At this point no one is breaking down the door for Miller and he has lots of doubters. The good news for Miller and Sabres’ fans, is that we’re going to see a very determined goaltender hit the ice in October; determined to show he’s still got his game from 2010, to show he can make team USA and determined to prove his doubters wrong. There is nothing more dangerous than a goaltender with a chip on their shoulder, look for Miller to come out guns a blazing.

While Miller may not be ready to put the Sabres in the rear view mirror as of yet, do the Buffalo Sabres have room for Miller in their future plans? With Jhonas Enroth, Andrey Makarov and Matt Hackett waiting in the wings, the future of the Sabres between the pipes seems to be set.

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