The St. Louis Blues are having a terrific season in the freshly realigned and very competitive Central Division. Many of their star players are having career years, and the team has rarely fallen victim to slumps or inconsistencies.
Well, aside from their goaltending.
It seems the Jaroslav Halak/Brian Elliott tandem that had captured the collective hearts of fans in the Gateway City a few years back with their exceptional, unprecedented play has nearly waned. After the Blues 7-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils last week, there has been an eruption of sorts relating to the Blues possible acquisition of Buffalo Sabres’ goaltender Ryan Miller, who is currently the hottest of hot commodities with the Olympic roster freeze and NHL trade deadline both looming.
Miller has always been one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. He won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender in the 2009-10 season—and the same year he was named MVP of the 2010 Men’s Ice Hockey Olympic Tournament in Vancouver, en route to winning a silver medal with Team USA.
Miller has been tremendous all year for an awful Sabres team. Given the fact that he’s in a contract year, he is one of very few assets that newly-appointed general manager Tim Murray can liquidate in trying to rebuild the Sabres for the future.
Blues’ general manager Doug Armstrong has shown nothing but support for Halak and Elliott, and coach Ken Hitchcock has had no problem riding one when the other seems cold. Neither goaltender has had difficulty winning this season. Their support has been good enough for 36 combined wins and second place in the Western Conference.
Halak also has a history of warming up in the playoffs. In 2010, Halak steered the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens all the way to the Eastern Conference Final. His spectacular play that postseason is what eventually landed Halak in St. Louis the summer after.
The Blues management may very well have complete faith in their goaltending situation, and they are justified in believing that Halak and Elliott may be good enough to carry this team to a championship.
If there’s one thing that’s certain, though, it’s that Blues fans are tired of the possibilities. They are tired of being nearly good enough. Ryan Miller can definitely make them good enough.
A trade for Miller would likely include a swap with Halak to help the Sabres replace Miller and also to help the Blues unload some salary. Miller is too valuable for a one-for-one swap, and the Blues would likely want to rid of a bit more salary to ease their tightness with the salary cap.
Here are three possible trade options the Blues can use to acquire Miller.
Polak will instantly upgrade a currently weak defense for the Sabres. His $2.75 million cap hit, along with Halak’s $3.75 million, will satiate the salary cap requirements for the deal.
The Blues will hurt a bit dealing Polak, as he is a very solid mainstay on their third defensive pairing, but he’s been prone to injury in the past. His lack of offensive prowess also won’t help a team that is hurting to score more goals, so it’s possible that the Blues may have to throw in a high-end prospect, like Ty Rattie or Dmitrij Jaskin, to sweeten the deal up a bit.
Berglund had a very slow start to the season, scoring just one goal in the first 24 games of the campaign. He nearly disappeared completely in the month of November, not scoring once and tallying just four assists.
Bringing in Berglund would be a huge win for the Sabres. He’s just 25 years old, has tremendous upside and could slot easily into the Sabres’ top six. He can play center or wing and also has a very competent two-way element to his game.
The Blues have an entire third line of top six players who could take Berglund’s spot. Their current depth leaves Berglund’s loss a big one, but a tolerable one.
It’s questionable if and how the Blues might handle a draft pick compensation for this trade. The Sabres will want one, but the Halak/Berglund duo should be more than enough to make this trade worthwhile for the Sabres.
Paajarvi has not found his place in the Blues lineup this year. Hitchcock often plugs him in every now and then to keep him fresh, but he doesn’t play often enough and rarely gets his chances when he does play.
Colaiacovo is a decent defender when he’s healthy. The Blues let him go after his contract expired a couple years back likely for that very reason but resigned him to a one-year contract this year to bolster their depth on defense. He’s often left out of the Blues lineup in favor of Ian Cole and Jordan Leopold.
The Sabres would get a very talented player in Magnus Paajarvi with a lot of offensive upside. Paajarvi would likely get a chance to play more consistently and be utilized in a way that would better aid in his development. Colaiacovo might be a hard sell here, since he wouldn’t be a significant improvement over most of their current defenders, but a first round draft pick could do the trick.