Is Ryan Miller Staying in Buffalo?

Andrew FarrellCorrespondent IJuly 15, 2008

Ryan Miller was coming off two consecutive Eastern Conference Finals series, losing to the eventual winners in 2005-2006 Carolina Hurricanes, and in 2006-2007 to the Ottawa Senators.

In his first full season for the Sabres, Miller entered the year after the lockout with a career year with the Sabres AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans. Miller ranked 1st among goalies with a win loss record of 41-17, with a goals against average of 2.45.

Needless to say, Ryan Miller proved to the Sabres why they drafted the former Spartan and Hobey Baker Winner in the 5th round of the 1999 NHL draft.

Millers first year with the Sabres, went 30-14 and backstopped his team to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Carolina Hurricanes, when many had picked the Sabres to finish in the bottom five of the Eastern Conference.

Although Miller was snubbed from the 2006 Team USA Olympic team, expect him to be between the pipes for the Americans in Vancouver in 2010

Miller's next year, he led the Sabres to the best record in the NHL, giving the team the Presidents Trophy. Again, Miller took his team to the Eastern Conference Finals, this time, losing to the Ottawa Senators. Miller was voted the starter of the All-Star game that year along with fellow Sabres Daniel Briere and Brian Campbell.

Miller's record that season was 40-16 record with a GAA of 2.73 This past season Miller was among many Sabres who played very streaky. he finished the year with a record of 36-27 with a GAA of 2.64. Now to Miller's defense, he didn't have any of that this season.

Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman, Buffalo's top defensive pairing, were often injured, and had a lack of chemistry this year, but if Buffalo wants to pay him, he will have to rise above some of the defensive laps of the Sabres and win games for the team.

This coming season, Buffalo will, baring any signing from GM Darcy Regier, will have two very young defensemen playing in front of Ryan Miller this season in Andrej Sekera, and Mike Weber. Buffalo added some much needed grit to the team with trading for Craig Rivet, but this year will really show if Ryan Miller is worth it.

A problem that Buffalo could face if not resigned before this season is the East Lansing, MI native could also be lured back home to play for the hometown Detroit Red Wings. With Chris Osgood not getting any younger, and back up Ty Conklin there, Detroit could make a run at Miller if he is left unsigned.

It is imperative that if a deal was to be made by the Sabres, it would have to be before July 1st, 2009. Rumors circulating out of Buffalo are that Ryan and his agent Mike Liut are in on going discussions with GM Darcy Regier. Money rumored that Regier is willing to give up is somewhere around the deal Marc-Andre Fleury signed this off-season with Pittsburgh ( 7 years, $35 Million) A deal like that is right in Miller's range.

Buffalo faces a rather difficult situation. They have two great goal tending prospects in Sweden's Jhnoas Enroth, who will be starting this year for Buffalo's new AHL affiliate, the Portland Pirates. and Bowling Green Alum, Nick Eno.

Enroth is rated by many as Buffalo's top prospect, and it makes the decision all that harder for Regier and the Sabres. If they did not have any prospects NHL ready, then Buffalo would have no choice but to give into Miller's demands, but they do. Buffalo's track record certainly shows they will not go out next off-season  and sign a goalie to a serviceable contract that is a legitimate.

Looking at the 2009 Free Agents, who would be worth it? Ray Emery? No, the city does not care for him. Andrew Raycroft? No. Do they let him walk, and start all over again? Or do they sign him?

In my opinion, Buffalo has to sign him. This management has shown over the years that they will not resign key players or pieces, be it Jay Mckee, JP Dumont, Mike Grier, Chris Drury, and Daniel Briere. Sooner or later, you will not have the luxury of prospects to help your team out.

I know there is only x amount of dollars the Sabre management can use because of Buffalo's small market, but Buffalo really needs to be aggressive about this. Ryan Miller is much too important to the Sabres to let him walk. I think it would be a huge mistake to the team to not sign him, and another slap in the face to the dedicated fans for not being committed to winning. And if that happens, the city of Buffalo will be in complete chaos.