Ranking Buffalo Sabres Goalie Ryan Miller's Most Likely Trade Destinations

Jonathan WillisNHL National ColumnistFebruary 4, 2014

Ranking Buffalo Sabres Goalie Ryan Miller's Most Likely Trade Destinations

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    The Buffalo Sabres are in a tough spot with franchise goalie Ryan Miller.

    Normally, the team would be in great shape. Miller is a pending unrestricted free agent and a difference-maker of proven quality, exactly the kind of veteran a rebuilding team typically can move for a massive return at the trade deadline. But in this case, there are problems.

    First, the market for goaltenders is weak. Lots of teams have netminders available for trade, and while Miller is a cut above the rest, the few teams looking have plenty of options and little incentive to pay full price.

    Second, Miller comes with a $6.25 million cap hit, as per CapGeek.com, which is going to be a difficult number for a contender to digest.  

    Finally, Miller has a limited no-trade clause. According to ESPN's Pierre LeBrun, Miller can block a trade to eight different teams, one of which is the Edmonton Oilers. Other clubs in need of goalie help, like Winnipeg and Calgary, are also likely to be on that list.

    With few teams looking and some of those teams unacceptable to Miller, where will the Sabres move him? This slideshow ranks what we feel are the likeliest destinations. 

Edmonton Oilers

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    Why it makes sense: The Oilers are looking to bring a lengthy and painful rebuild to an end, and the organization seems to be placing a priority on fixing its goaltending. The Oilers have already made moves to add two goalies this season (Ben Scrivens and Ilya Bryzgalov) and are likely still looking for a long-term starter. 

    Why it doesn't make sense: Edmonton's going nowhere this season, so spending assets at the deadline when it can spend money in free agency during the offseason instead doesn't make a lot of sense. Also, there's that bit in the introduction about Miller not wanting to go to the Oilers. 

    Likelihood: Extremely unlikely; a 1 or 2 percent chance.

Washington Capitals

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    Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

    Why it makes sense: Washington is struggling badly of late, Braden Holtby is having a down year and the Capitals have three young goalies to trade, one of which might make a nice centerpiece of a package for Miller.

    Why it doesn't make sense: Washington has three good, young goalies. With problems elsewhere, why would it waste time and assets locking down a position that is already quite good and excellent value for money? 

    Likelihood: Unlikely; maybe a 2 or 3 percent chance. 

Chicago Blackhawks

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    Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

    Why it makes sense: The Blackhawks are a legitimate contender, but one of the areas where they don't match up all that well against the powers that be in the NHL is in net, where Corey Crawford is a decidedly average starting goalie. 

    Why it doesn't make sense: Crawford may be a pedestrian starter, but Chicago's management group felt strongly enough to give him $36 million and a modified no-trade clause, via CapGeek.com. That is an awfully big stumbling block for the 'Hawks if the team wants to add a new playoff starter, and it's unlikely the team would pay a premium in assets and take on Miller's contract just to add a No. 2.

    Likelihood: Unlikely; maybe a 2 or 3 percent chance. 

New York Islanders

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    Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

    Why it makes sense: Despite their position in the NHL standings, the New York Islanders aren't a terrible team. As we considered back in December, the club simply isn't good enough to overcome its atrocious netminding, because it turns out that 38-year old Evgeni Nabokov and two AHLers isn't a great strategy between the pipes. 

    Why it doesn't make sense: The Islanders problem is that, as with the Oilers, nobody wants to play for a laughingstock. New York doesn't just need Ryan Miller to agree to a trade; it needs him to be willing to sign on long term and that's a dicey proposition. 

    Likelihood: Long odds, but not impossible ones; approximately a 10 percent chance. 

Minnesota Wild

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Why it makes sense: The Wild are in a tough spot. Niklas Backstrom has struggled badly this season, while Josh Harding has been excellent but comes with serious health caveats. Darcy Kuemper is an excellent prospect, but put it all together and the Wild don't really have a starter they can rely on. Miller, signed to a long-term deal, would solve a lot of problems. 

    Why it doesn't make sense: Minnesota is a decent team, but not one good enough to spend serious assets on a rental player. Additionally, the team has a number of big contracts on the books and needs to navigate the salary cap carefully here. 

    Likelihood: A real possibility; say a 20 percent chance. 

St. Louis Blues

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    Tom Gannam/Associated Press

    Why it makes sense: St. Louis is a contending team that may or may not be confident in its goaltending, so from that perspective the idea of adding Ryan Miller for a Stanley Cup run makes a lot of sense. Additionally, both of its current goalies are pending unrestricted free agents; signing Miller long term would allow the Blues to walk away from both and promote cheap backup Jake Allen, who is waiting for his opportunity.  

    Why it doesn't make sense: St. Louis has hovered around the salary cap all season, so taking on Miller's contract both now and in the future would require some careful handling. 

    Likelihood: Good odds; call it a 40 percent chance. 

    Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer who has been covering hockey at various outlets since the spring of 2008. For more of his work follow him on Twitter