Ryan Miller Trade Launches St. Louis Blues to Stanley Cup Favorites

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Ryan Miller Trade Launches St. Louis Blues to Stanley Cup Favorites
Bill Wippert/Getty Images

The St. Louis Blues added 2014's most sought-after NHL trade target to their arsenal Friday night with the acquisition of Ryan Miller.

According to the team's website, the Blues acquired goaltender Miller and center Steve Ott from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for goaltender Jaroslav Halak, winger Chris Stewart, prospect William Carrier, a 2015 first-round pick and a 2016 third-round pick.

Mark Buckner/Getty Images

The Blues, already second in the Western Conference entering Friday with 84 points (39-13-6) in 58 games, should immediately jump to the top of the list of Stanley Cup favorites.

Netminding has long been considered a shortcoming of this stacked St. Louis roster, which currently ranks second in the league in goals for and third in goals against. Jaroslav Halak, while a solid backstop overall, was simply never going to be able to keep up with the likes of Jonathan Quick or Tuukka Rask.

That final hole has now been filled by Miller, the 33-year-old veteran who has recorded terrific numbers on a largely bottom-feeding Sabres squad for a decade now. In an equal number of starts (40) in 2013-14, Miller has already made 384 more saves (9.6 more per game) than Halak.

Miller vs. Halak by Season
Season Miller Save Percentage Halak Save Percentage
2009-10 .929 .924
2010-11 .916 .910
2011-12 .916 .926
2012-13 .915 .899
2013-14 .923 .917

Per NHL.com Stat Database

Unlike many of their fellow top-of-the-standings competitors, the Blues have found success through balance.

They boast a whopping five players with 14 or more goals and nine players (including three defensemen) within 12 of Alexander Steen's team-leading 46 points.

Such even distribution of production not only reduces the potential effects of injuries but also provides remarkable consistency to the team overall—the Blues are the only team in the NHL to have earned at least a point (24-0-3) in every game when leading after the first period.

Ott, who ranked sixth on the Sabres with 20 points in 59 games prior to the deal, will now join the offensive cast as a highly capable third-line center. He has plenty of leadership experience, having served as  Buffalo's captain since the Thomas Vanek trade in October, and led Buffalo in both hits and faceoff percentage.

While Miller will surely capture the headlines Friday, the impacts of 28-year-old Ott should not be overlooked in the months ahead.

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Yet defense remains the Blues' ultimate staple: they've allowed the fewest or second-fewest shots against for three consecutive campaigns. 

Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk and Jay Bouwmeester together comprise the most unheralded and arguably the best trio of rearguards in North America.

Now, at long last, an undeniably elite goaltender will be standing tall behind them.

In 24 appearances since Nov. 20, Miller has posted a save percentage of .903 or better on 21 occasions. He also sports the experience of two Conference Finals in 2006 and 2007, along with the motivation supplied by spending roughly the last seven years on an utterly horrendous team.

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St. Louis general manager Doug Armstrong will surely hope that Miller can guide his new club deeper into the playoffs than Halak and Brian Elliot have the previous two springs, as the Blues have been eliminated by the Los Angeles Kings short of the Conference Finals in back-to-back postseasons.

No matter what the months ahead reveal, however, it remains undeniable that Armstrong and the Blues have made their splash and their statement at the trade deadline.

If the Blues weren't already Cup favorites yesterday, they most certainly are now.

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

 

Mark Jones has been a NHL featured columnist for Bleacher Report since 2009. Visit his profile to read more, or follow him on Twitter.

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