The wait is over.
Last night, with their game with the San Jose Sharks closing in, the Buffalo Sabres traded their star netminder Ryan Miller and captain Steve Ott to the St. Louis Blues for Jaroslav Halak, Chris Stewart, William Carrier, a 2015 first-round pick and a conditional 2014 third-round pick.
In the end, Miller ended up on the team many believed he would benefit from the most and the Sabres now have a pile of assets to move forward with.
The ironic part of this trade is that despite the end of the Miller and Ott speculation that has raged for months, it opens the door to speculation involving the two roster players the Sabres acquired in Halak and Stewart.
Halak is a unrestricted free agent at the end of the year who can, and likely will, walk at the end of the season. He's been great in years past, but has struggled at times this year. He has posted solid numbers with 2.23 goals against average and a .917 save percentage, but that was aided by the strong St. Louis defense.
The positive for the Sabres? That will not matter much to a team looking to cement their goaltending moving into the playoffs.
Halak will obviously not provide the same spark as Miller, but he can help strengthen a platoon for a playoff run. The teams that missed out on Miller may still be interested in adding Halak, who will certainly come cheaper than Miller would have in the first place. It would not be surprising at all to see Halak wearing a different sweater by Wednesday's trade deadline.
Stewart is a more complicated case.
A two-time 28 goal scorer, Stewart is a physical presence who knows how to get the puck to, and in, the net. If Steve Ott could score, he would be Stewart.
But Stewart, with the emergence of Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz, has seen his ice time cut significantly and his role diminishing. He hasn't lost his scoring touch, though, as he managed to still score 15 goals despite his smaller role—and he will instantly slot into the Sabres' top-six forwards.
Yet, much like Halak, there continues to be buzz that the Sabres will flip him as well.
Stewart has another year left on his deal at a reasonable $4.15 million (via CapGeek), making him infinitely easier to trade. He also has the potential to bring in more assets for the future, or a younger roster player.
The team to keep an eye on here is the Ottawa Senators. They were reportedly interested in Stewart's services before the trade to Buffalo, but it was rumored they were asking for a substantial return for him, including Ryan Callahan from the Rangers according to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun.
The Sabres likely value him a bit less and would likely be willing to part with him for less than the Blues. Not to mention the reports from Bob McKenzie of TSN last night before the trade details were finalized that the Sabres-Blues swap could have included the Sens as a third team.
McKenzie went further after the trade details were announced, saying that Ottawa is still interested in Stewart and that the Sabres would likely try to send him there. He also hinted at a potentially larger deal including Matt Moulson, another player the Sens have had their eye on from the Sabres—never mind the Tim Murray connection to Ottawa.
Needless to say, with those two the questions will continue until at least Wednesday.
As for the futures portion of the trade, Tim Murray definitely gave himself some assets to work with.
Carrier, the Blues' second-round selection last year, was ranked number 18 in Central Scouting's final rankings entering the 2013 draft, ahead of Nikita Zadorov (22), JT Compher (34) and Justin Bailey (38). He slid because of an ankle injury that ended his season, but he posted 41 points in 39 games on a poor Cape Breton team in the QMJHL.
Carrier is an excellent skater who can get to the net with speed and power. He also has an NHL-caliber shot and can create for himself and others. He doesn't come with the pedigree of a Ty Rattie, but he is an excellent pickup.
On top of Carrier, the Sabres received two draft picks: a 2015 first-round selection and a conditional 2014 third-round selection.
The 2015 first rounder likely gives the Sabres three selections in the first round next year, assuming the New York Islanders hold on to their first rounder this year. This is obviously great news for Murray in what is touted as an extremely deep draft.
The conditional 2014 pick is a bit more interesting. The Sabres reported that the pick has the potential to become a 2014 first-round selection if Miller re-signs with the Blues this offseason or if the Blues make the Western Conference Finals this year.
That is huge news for the Sabres and is actually likely to happen given the strength of St. Louis' team this year. That could guarantee the Sabres five first rounders in the next two drafts, with a sixth likely on its way from Matt Moulson.
Overall, it seems as though Murray has shown his mettle to Sabres fans by scoring a haul from the Blues for two pending UFAs. The exciting part is that he likely isn't done with some of the pieces, with Halak and Stewart likely being the topic of speculation for a couple of more days.
Realistically, what else should Sabres fans expect?
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