As widely reported, the Blues re-signed netminder Brian Elliott to a three-year extension, paving the way for former Sabres goalie Ryan Miller to hit the free-agent market in July.
This news immediately led to speculation of where Miller would land in a few months, including destinations that were discussed before he was traded this season such as Anaheim, Washington and Minnesota.
Realistically, you could sit here and poke holes in any and all destinations that are being floated around for Miller right now, but at this point it can and will only be speculation. Without a doubt, there will be a team in the NHL that signs Miller for a moderate term to start in net for them.
That team just won't be the Buffalo Sabres.
On Tuesday, Bucky Gleason of the Buffalo News essentially wrote a plea to general manager Tim Murray asking him to avoid re-signing Ryan Miller this offseason. In the article, Gleason speaks to how well Miller played this year for the Sabres and how he might be an intriguing option for Murray and his rebuilding team, but he opines that they should ultimately pass on his services.
Would the Sabres net be better off with Miller in it next season? Probably.
Does that mean Murray is considering bringing him back? No.
In free agency, mutual interest is important, and there is a strong argument to be made that no interest does or should exist between the Sabres and Miller.
Bob McKenzie of TSN Canada believes that Miller wants to play in California, specifically in Anaheim, in order to be close to his wife, actress Noureen DeWulf. However, Ross McKeon of the San Francisco Chronicle suggested on Monday that San Jose could be a good fit as well.
Anaheim may be a bit of a pipe dream, as John Gibson and Frederik Anderson have emerged as a scary tandem in net. However, San Jose is in need of some steady goaltending, especially after coach Todd McLellan's game of rotating goalies during their collapse against the Los Angeles Kings in this year's first round.
Beyond the California options, former Tampa Bay Lightning GM Brian Lawton reported a mere days before the trade this season that the Sabres wanted to re-sign Miller. Sure, the trade deadline is full of rumors and false information, but a former GM's word has to mean something, and if what Lawton said is even remotely true, one has to think Miller wanted out to begin with.
And that brings us to the other side of the coin: do the Sabres want Miller back?
The only murmurs of Miller's potential return have come as a result of Gleason's aforementioned article. This in and of itself is telling, because the lack of information in cases like this can be information enough.
Ryan Miller no longer fits the Sabres' plans, plain and simple.
Tim Murray is looking at a team right now that, assuming a Ville Leino buyout is forthcoming, will have about $37.5 million in cap space this offseason, per CapGeek, which is tops in the NHL. His blank canvas is upon him.
Could you make the case for the signing of Ryan Callahan or perhaps even the return of Steve Ott and Matt Moulson? Sure. They all would play a clear role on the team moving forward, and they would honestly help bring the team to the cap floor, which will likely be set at $52 million.
Yet the case is much harder to make for Miller.
The team is two to three years away from competing for a Stanley Cup, at best. Yes, they could squeak into the playoffs before truly competing for a championship, but they have a ways to go before even reaching that level. Miller probably has three to four years of high-level play left in him, leaving very little crossover between the two timelines, if any.
Signing Miller also means delaying the team's ability to determine whether or not they already have their future netminder, something Sabres fans were able to see a glimpse of at the end of this season with Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth, and then—thanks to an unbelievable stretch of injuries—Matt Hackett, Nathan Lieuwen and Connor Knapp.
Ignoring the team's position, Miller has been the subject of trade rumors for the last few seasons, with many thinking he would be moved last offseason. Yes, Murray replaced Darcy Regier, but he did end up trading Miller, so one could even make the point that he wanted to trade him more.
And the alleged attempt to re-sign him at the 11th hour should have little bearing on the notion of the team's willingness to move Miller. Re-signing a player only ups his value these days, just ask the Philadelphia Flyers.
Basically what it comes down to is the fact that the Sabres have been trying to part ways with Miller for some time, and now it makes less sense than ever to bring him back.
The Sabres aren't considering bringing him back now, because they probably never were.
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