The dust has now settled from the weekend's activities, and Ryan Miller has over 31 million reasons to be happy he is a Buffalo Sabre. There are two wonderful things about this deal:
1. Miller's $6.25 million cap hit does not hit the books until next season, leaving the possibility of acquiring another defenseman extremely plausible.
2. It shows what the Sabres were thinking last year when they said goodbye to Briere and Drury—they are more concerned with their homegrown core than players that made a splash after a trade.
The proverbial load was lifted from my shoulders when I heard Miller would be back until 2014. The rumblings of a Detroit exodus or another frenzied trade deadline were making me uneasy—not necessarily due to the spectre of losing Ryan specifically, but the loss of a homegrown star.
The notion that Regier and his cronies were completely fine with letting Miller walk was the biggest slap in the face a Sabres fan could have endured, and a year ago we were slapped pretty damn hard. To let Miller walk next summer would have told the fans in Buffalo that winning was second to business, that management would even rent their own prospects until the time when they became stars and their market price shot upwards.
Yes, Vanek and Roy were signed last summer—but the Roy situation was much more docile (he was a restricted free agent), and Vanek is a centerpiece of the puzzle and there was little choice as to whether the offer sheet be matched or not.
Miller was different.
The Sabres did the right thing, and they did it at what seems to be a fair price too. Yes, right now Ryan is slated to be the fourth-highest paid goalie in the league, behind Kiprusoff, Luongo, and Lundqvist. No offense to Millsie, but he is not the fourth-best goalie in the league.
But the deal is affordable and leaves a lot of room for more signings. Plus, by the end of the 2011 season, goalies such as Nabokov, Giguere, Vokoun, Turco and Backstrom will have their contracts extended/expire and will all certainly eclipse Miller's salary.
Yet the signing of Miller is only a stepping stone to what is soon to be the best news of the off-season—the contract extension of Jason Pominville. Pommers was our most consistent player through most of the season, and he and Derek Roy were our best players during the final stretch towards the playoffs.
Yes, Vanek is our scorer. Yes, Roy is our play-maker. But ladies and gentlemen, Pominville has it all. He is not flashy like the other two—he simply gets the job done.
Most importantly though, he is a leader, showcased by Lindy Ruff's choosing him as captain for the final month of the season.
I expect Pominville to be signed within the next week, as all the reports I'm seeing say that he is extremely happy with the way the negotiations are progressing.
It is extremely exciting and uplifting to see that the Sabres are concerned with their youth and their core. After the "tragedy" that occurred last offseason, having Vanek, Roy, Miller, and Pominville signed through at least 2012 is a wonderful place to start.
Now that I understand that Regier and Ruff are focused on homegrown youth, don't be surprised to see names like Gerbe, Sekera, Weber, Butler, Myers, and Zagrapan to grace that list soon.
We all remember Pommers stuffing that puck past Ray Emery, in what seems like eons ago, to dramatically lift Buffalo to the Eastern Conference Finals. It was Jason's team then, and it's his team now.
Welcome to Pominville.