The Buffalo Sabres have traded star goalie Ryan Miller and forward Steve Ott to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for goalie Jaroslav Halak, forward Chris Stewart, prospect William Carrier, a first-round pick in 2015 and a third-round pick in 2016 in a blockbuster deal leading up to the NHL trade deadline.

The Blues announced the deal via Twitter:

TVA Sports reporter Renaud Lavoie had the news first:

According to SportsCenter, the trade has called for a drastic roster move for the Sabres game against the Sharks:

Miller has been a stalwart between the posts in Buffalo for nearly a decade. The team is in complete rebuilding mode right now, however, which means moving a 33-year-old netminder doesn't come as much of a surprise.

The Sabres currently sport the worst record in the NHL. Given the lack of talent on the roster, they are likely to find themselves in a similar position next season. So trading Miller while his value was still high made sense for both player and team.

Even though rumors have been swirling for months about the goalie's future, Miller hasn't spoken out much about the situation. Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News passed along comments from him in early February, and he called it a "business transaction":

That's not really something I want to discuss with you guys. It's a private conversation about a business transaction. Really, that's what it comes down to. I'm waiting to see kind of what the plans are around here. That would kind of give a little more indication.

Despite the poor season the Sabres are enduring, Miller has played very well. His save percentage of .923 is within striking distance of his career high, and he's kept the team in many games that would have otherwise been complete blowouts.

Yet, with the Sabres at least a couple years away from being truly competitive, the front office opted to further the rebuild by moving another valuable veteran.

As always, it's going to take some time to determine whether or not it was a good move for both teams. Since there weren't many contending teams in need of a goalie, it likely limited Buffalo's asking price on the trade market, but Buffalo got a deal it was at least satisfied with in the end.

Moving forward, Miller will once again get a chance to understand what it's like to play behind a more talented and competitive group of players. There should be far fewer nights where he's forced to carry the team's entire hope of winning on his shoulders.

As for the Sabres, brighter days are ahead with a strong farm system and plenty of draft picks over the next couple of years. It's going to take some time to draft and develop all of those prospects, but it should be worth the wait once the plan comes together in a few seasons.

The turnaround just won't happen with the player who was the face of the franchise in recent years as Miller moves on.

 

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And here we go. 

All of the months of waiting and speculation will come to an end in a mere 10 days as the NHL roster freeze was lifted at midnight and NHL clubs are free to swap players as they so choose, until 3 p.m. on March 5. 

At the center of the trade deadline circus is the Buffalo Sabres

By now, Sabres fans are tired of hearing about Ryan Miller's and Matt Moulson's assumed departures and want a resolution, one way or another, for them and the other major to-be unrestricted free agent, Steve Ott.

There is a bit of fine print to potential resolutions for these three players though. 

Most importantly, the likelihood of a huge, team-shaping blockbuster deal including top roster players, prospects and draft picks is unlikely at the trade deadline. Trades like that are typically reserved for the draft in June. Instead, all three of the Sabres' pending UFAs will likely be moved for top prospects and/or draft picks only. 

What that means is that the deadline will essentially be used to set the table for June's draft and will not, in and of itself, be the springboard to the future for the Sabres. 

Now the notion of a huge blockbuster occurring is not just the product of the rumor mongers, as there is a realistic possibility of it happening. However, one should refer to trade deadlines of past years to see that the big name rarely gets moved then. 

The Rick Nash, Cory Schneider and Jordan Staal trades are all excellent examples of that. Nash and Staal were the biggest potential trade deadline pieces two years ago and didn't move until the draft. Last year, it seemed all but a certainty Roberto Luongo was going to be moved at the deadline and not only did that not happen, but Cory Schneider was moved at the draft instead. 

Granted, all of those players were not going to be UFAs the following July, but a team isn't going to give up the packages they gave up for those players for a to-be UFA either. 

Simply put, the Sabres will get a haul for these three guys if they are moved, but it will be in futures, futures that will, mostly, be cashed in at this and next year's draft. 

This years draft, only considering the Sabres' current situation, offers the potential for some immediate improvement. 

As it stands today, Sports Club Stats gives the Sabres a 94-percent chance to end the season in 30th place, assuring them a top-two pick in the draft. That pick will likely be one of two players: Aaron Ekblad or Sam Reinhart

Ekblad, as previously discussed, is widely seen as the best player in the draft. Scouts and draft gurus don't throw around Shea Weber comparisons lightly, but that's who Ekblad is being compared to right now. He's big at 6'4" and can skate and move the puck as well as anyone in the draft. 

Defense is probably on the bottom of the need list for the Sabres with Rasmus Ristolainen, Nikita Zadorov, Mark Pysyk, Brayden McNabb, Chad Ruhwedel and Jake McCabe in the pipeline—never mind Tyler Myers and Christian Ehrhoff playing well now. Yet the allure of Ekblad may be too much to pass on, and understandably so, if the Sabres get the top pick. 

If the Sabres deem their blueline set, or if they end up in the number two slot, Sam Reinhart seems to be the guy they'll choose. Beyond being the consensus top pick in NHL.com's latest mock drafts, Reinhart has shown a ridiculous amount of offensive spark since returning from the World Junior Championships in January, posting 40 points in those 17 games. 

People have been slow to put a player comparison to Reinhart, but Bob McKenzie has him ranked second in his draft prospect rankings and Craig Button says his hockey IQ is well above average. 

With Ekblad or Reinhart in the fold, the Sabres will likely look toward the second round and the three picks they hold there. Yes, the Sabres potentially have the New York Islanders' first rounder, but the likelihood of that happening took a substantial downturn with John Tavares' season-ending knee injury. 

The Isles are currently in 26th, which translates into the fifth pick in the draft, and are eight points behind the Nashville Predators for 25th. The Predators are only four points out of the last wild card spot in the Western Conference, so they're not laying down anytime soon, and without Tavares the Isles are not likely to win many more games. It seems very unlikely that a team would pass up a top-five pick even with the 2015 draft class. 

That leaves the Sabres with their three second-round selections, not including any first rounders acquired at the deadline. Tim Murray has not been shy in saying he will be ready to turn a few of those second rounders into firsts if the market allows at the draft, but that is also not a given. 

Regardless, Murray will have four picks to work with in the top-60 as of right now, and will surely get more at the deadline. 

Armed with a growing bushel full of draft picks and Hockey's Future's second-ranked prospect pool, Murray has the assets to work with. Whether he uses his picks as is, or trades picks for picks, or picks and prospects for players, he has a ton of options now and at the draft. 

Yet, do not be surprised to see a decided lack of roster players coming back in return for the Sabres' outgoing stars. Instead, Murray will accumulate more to work with in June, not only for the draft, but for when the market is more suitable for the team-changing moves we've seen in the past few years. 

The next ten days are extremely important for the future of the Sabres, but the major impact will likely not come on March 6. Instead it will be felt in the weeks leading up to June 27 in Philadelphia for the NHL draft.  

Follow me on Twitter for NHL and Sabres news all season long: @SwordPlay18

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Last night during an intermission at the Rochester Americans and Texas Stars AHL tilt in Rochester, Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray gave a lengthy interview to WGR 550 discussing a wide range of topics. 

Murray is still getting familiar with his team, especially his prospects in Rochester. He's been scuttling around the Northeast and Southern Ontario scouting his current prospects, as well as his potential future prospects playing in the OHL

While Murray said a lot during the interview, here are five takeaways from the scrum:

1. Mark Pysyk and Johan Larsson have impressed him. 

Not surprisingly, Murray has taken a liking to Larsson and Pysyk

Referring to Larsson as a "competitive bugger" that "gives you everything he's got" and to Pysyk as a "smart, steady defenseman," Murray seems happy with their development thus far.

Getting more specific with Pysyk, Murray wants him to be more offensive in his game and to push himself at the AHL level to make that happen.

This was far from a criticism of the young defenseman though. The words steady and smart usually translate to a second-pairing guy, and the Sabres would be happy to see Pysyk end up in that role. However, if Pysyk were to develop more of an offensive side, including some improvements, he would easily slot into the Sabres' top pairing down the line. 

A top pairing of Rasmus Ristolainen or Nikita Zadorov and Pysyk in a few years has the potential to be as frightening to opposing teams as the Shea Weber and Ryan Suter pairing the Nashville Predators trotted out a couple of years ago. 

2. The Sabres' future in goal is far from certain. 

While stating the Sabres have "a couple good young goalies" in Rochester, Murray would not commit to the notion that Ryan Miller's (assumed) replacement is already in the Buffalo system. 

While Miller's future is still uncertain, Murray needs to go about his business as if his franchise netminder will be donning another sweater after March 5's trade deadline. 

Currently below Miller on the depth chart includes Jhonas Enroth, Nathan Lieuwen, Matt Hackett and Andrey Makarov

All four have shown flashes at their respective levels, but none have given Murray enough to go all-in with them. 

The best goaltending prospect for the Sabres has likely been Linus Ullmark, a sixth-round selection in the 2012 Entry Draft, who has posted a 1.95 goals against average and a .935 save percentage in his rookie year for Modo of the Swedish Elite League. 

Murray said he will "waffle" on the position in the coming months, but don't sleep on him looking to the crease in the upcoming draft in June. Assuming they acquire a late first-round pick in a trade, keep the name Thatcher Demko in mind. 

Demko is a United States National Development Team veteran lighting it up for Boston College this season, sporting a 1.85 goals against average and a .934 save percentage. He is the top-rated goalie by the CSS in their midterm rankings

3. Expect to see veterans from Rochester take the place of anyone traded. 

When asked who would take the place of the guys that might be traded from the Sabres, Murray was not very forthcoming on whether it would be veterans or young guys filling the spots. 

However, he did comment on how he felt it was important for the more inexperienced players to get some playoff experience, and the Amerks are currently in eighth place with a five point cushion with 26 games left. Murray also said he would not want to "gut" the Amerks either. 

If the playoffs are a likelihood for Rochester, expect the return of Kevin Porter instead of the debut of Joel Armia. To bring back Larsson, Ristolainen, or most of the other young guys, would likely take Rochester out of contention, which is obviously something Murray has no intention of doing. 

4. Murray is not concentrating on just acquiring picks and could deal for a young NHL-ready player.   

Beyond reiterating that he is "all ears" and just "waiting for a dance partner," Murray said that while it seemed logical that the Sabres would be targeting more picks for the next two drafts, that is not their only option. 

Murray said that the Sabres would be just as happy to acquire a "22-year old that can't find a spot in the organization he's with now." 

While that seems like a general statement, reading between the lines it seems to show Murray's hand a bit. 

While there is nothing reliable to link them to the Sabres, both Evander Kane of the Winnipeg Jets and Nazem Kadri of the Toronto Maple Leafs have been the subject of trade rumors for the majority of the season.

Kadri is 23 years old, Kane 22. Kadri has struggled to find a spot in Toronto's top-six forwards for the majority of the last two years, where Kane has come under fire from the Winnipeg media for his alleged off-ice behavior. 

While stopping short of saying Murray is definitely in on these guys, it seems likely that he's at least done his due diligence on them. Both would immediately improve the Sabres' top-six, but both would be expensive, something also acknowledged by Murray. 

But the idea is out there, and it makes a lot of sense for a rebuilding team: Trade a high pick and maybe a prospect for a guy that has NHL experience, but is young enough to still be a franchise pillar. 

5. Murray is preparing for the possibility of more than one first-round pick. 

While this may be an assumption for many Sabres fans, there are multiple ways that the Sabres could acquire additional first-round picks in the upcoming draft.

The most obvious way is by trading Ryan Miller, Matt Moulson and (possibly) Steve Ott

Miller and Mouslon will most certainly come with a first-round pick price tag, and Ott has the potential to, depending on the market. While seeing all three turned into a first rounder this year is unlikely, you may see two this year and one next year or vice versa

The other possible way to get into the first round is trading picks for picks. The Sabres hold three second rounders this and next year, so it is very possible to see some of them packaged to move up. 

Murray acknowledged this in his interview saying that with the three firsts this year he can see two of the seconds "becoming [pick number] 15 or 19." 

With that in mind, Murray commented that the Sabres have been looking not only at the top-ten ranked prospects, but those ranked in the top 30 as well. He also named some names that he was scouting personally, including Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett, Leon Draisaitl, Michael Dal Colle and Aaron Ekblad

Simply put, do not expect Murray to sit tight come June. 

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The Buffalo Sabres were viewed as one of the teams that could make a few moves before Friday's Olympic roster freeze, but like the other teams in the NHL the Sabres decided to stand pat.

For now. 

Many had talked about how the Olympic freeze essentially created two trade deadlines this year, but for all the talk March 5, the official trade deadline, will hold its usual luster. 

That holds especially true for the Sabres. 

From comments made by the hockey media to those made by Sabres general manager Tim Murray himself, the Sabres are going to be the preeminent sellers at this year's trade deadline. While Murray has said multiple times─most notably during his introductory press conference─that everyone is available on a last-place team, clearly no one believes that to be true. That statement is more than likely just a way for Murray to let Sabres fans know he understands things have to change. 

What is likely is that Ryan Miller, Matt Moulson, Steve Ott and Henrik Tallinder will garner substantial interest over the break and in the ten days between the Olympics and the March 5 deadline when roster moves are allowed. 

Miller has arguably been the most regularly discussed trade target for quite some time. Many have speculated on his potential trade destinations, but the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild have emerged as the most popular landing spots. Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun believes Minnesota to be the front-runner, saying the Blues support their incumbent Jaroslav Halak. 

The comforting thing in all of this uncertainty for Sabres fans is the undeniable fact that Miller will not be cheap for any team to acquire. Common sense tells you that a first-round pick in either this or next year's draft and a top prospect are the cheapest Miller will be. Any past experience with the trade deadline tells you that a top-six forward could easily be added to that.

The same can be said for Matt Moulson. 

A 30-goal scorer in the three seasons leading up to the lockout, plus 15 during the shortened campaign last year, Moulson is one of the best pure goal scorers in the league right now. The Sabres picked up the pending unrestricted free agent in the Thomas Vanek trade and he has not disappointed. 

At 30, Moulson still has a good chunk of hockey left in him, and his $3.33 million salary cap hit is very attractive for teams looking to add some top-level scoring for the playoff push. If the Sabres can send him somewhere that he would re-sign, the price could be more than anyone would have thought. 

However, with everyone so keen on pushing Moulson out of town, it would also be a great move by the Sabres to re-sign him. He (likely) would not be prohibitively expensive and is a proven goal scorer. A player like Moulson is not hard to find a spot for on any team, let alone a rebuilding one. 

So, while it seems likely Moulson will be in a new city come March 5 due to the small fortune of picks and players he'd likely fetch, re-signing him could be as beneficial to the Sabres in the long run. 

Speaking of the long run, Sabres captain Steve Ott has been the only pending unrestricted free agent to say that he wants to stay in Buffalo and be a part of the rebuild.

The problem? A lot of teams want Steve Ott to be a part of their playoff run.

Ott was featured on Sportsnet's Trade Tracker a few nights ago as a potential player on the move, with the Vancouver Canucks, Detroit Red Wings, Washington Capitals and Colorado Avalanche being the teams named that could be pursuing Ott. 

The price for Ott is the real uncertain aspect of this as it stands to reason that a team would want to re-sign their captain, especially one that wants to stay put. 

So simply put, it seems both the Sabres and Ott want to continue their relationship into the future, but a lot of teams are calling to see what it would take to end that relationship (at least temporarily). Given the Sabres' wish to keep Ott, the price to land his services will have to be more than what he would receive normally. 

And while these three players have the most attention and the highest price tags, the Sabres also have a few other players that will garner some attention in Henrik Tallinder, Drew Stafford and Tyler Ennis. 

Tallinder has a decent chance of finding a new home at the deadline with a playoff-bound team that is having issues defensively, whether it is due to poor play or injuries. Teams that fit this description include the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins

Stafford and Ennis are different stories entirely. Stafford has another year remaining on his contract that carries a $4 million cap hit and has picked up his play offensively in the last few weeks. Ennis is a restricted free agent at the end of the season, but would almost certainly re-sign with the Sabres during the offseason. 

Both are intriguing trade targets logically, but most of the buzz surrounding them has come from local sources and there is nothing to suggest that they are being shopped and/or sought. A betting man would put his money on both remaining with the Sabres for the time being. 

So it's safe to say that Tim Murray is going to be busy the next couple of weeks. This deadline could go a long way toward putting the Sabres back on the right path toward a Stanley Cup championship, especially when you consider the fact that between Miller, Moulson and Ott you could easily fetch three first-round picks, three top prospects and a roster player or two. 

And while the roster freeze is in effect, that does not prohibit GMs from talking during the Olympic break, so expect the chatter to continue. 

Don't worry Sabres fans, odds are a quiet Tim Murray at the roster freeze means the ten days between the freeze lifting and the March 5 trade deadline will only be all the more exciting. 

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The Buffalo Sabres are in a tough spot with franchise goalie Ryan Miller.

Normally, the team would be in great shape. Miller is a pending unrestricted free agent and a difference-maker of proven quality, exactly the kind of veteran a rebuilding team typically can move for a massive return at the trade deadline. But in this case, there are problems.

First, the market for goaltenders is weak. Lots of teams have netminders available for trade, and while Miller is a cut above the rest, the few teams looking have plenty of options and little incentive to pay full price.

Second, Miller comes with a $6.25 million cap hit, as per CapGeek.com, which is going to be a difficult number for a contender to digest.  

Finally, Miller has a limited no-trade clause. According to ESPN's Pierre LeBrun, Miller can block a trade to eight different teams, one of which is the Edmonton Oilers. Other clubs in need of goalie help, like Winnipeg and Calgary, are also likely to be on that list.

With few teams looking and some of those teams unacceptable to Miller, where will the Sabres move him? This slideshow ranks what we feel are the likeliest destinations. 

 

Begin Slideshow

As if Buffalo Sabres fans haven't had enough to handle this season with the woeful product on the ice, they now have something more to lament about off the ice. 

Yesterday, John Vogl of The Buffalo News reported that former Sabres general manager Darcy Regier had discussions with Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli in regard to a Thomas Vanek-Tyler Seguin swap at last year's draft. 

While Vogl does go on to say that the reason for the deal not coming to fruition is not clear, this type of news has to leave a bad taste in many Sabres fans' mouths. 

First, ignoring Seguin's fit with the Sabres in the short and long term, this is the exact type of deal that Sabres fans clamored for from Regier for years. The blockbuster. The one that would have the league buzzing for weeks. 

Instead, Regier always stuck to his low-risk moves. 

Regier was the king of turning established players into prospects and draft picks, usually a move that no one ever second-guesses. But eventually, a team in the Sabres' position needs to flip guys for "right now" players or guys that will make the team better from the onset, not three or four years later. 

Did Regier make some player-for-player moves that helped the team throughout the years? Of course.

He brought in Danny Briere, Chris Drury, Steve Ott and J.P. Dumont during his time, but none of those guys, with the possible exception of Drury, were expected to play the roles they did for the Sabres during their tenures. 

However, this point is not to diminish the effectiveness of the trades—it merely is to show that Regier was not one to make a splash when a splash was what was needed. 

Coming back to the reported Vanek-Seguin deal, there are certainly a lot of factors at play with a deal like that, many of which were likely seen as an unknown last June. 

Would Seguin be able to bounce back from the media lashing he was receiving in Boston, especially after a mediocre-at-best playoff performance? Would Vanek succeed on a team that did not necessarily foster offensive talent? 

Those are surely two of the many questions that needed answers, or at least opinions, before as big a deal as this would have been could go down. 

But looking at it purely with organizational fit in mind, this would have made a lot of sense, especially for the Sabres. 

Vanek was on the last year of his deal and basically had one foot out the door. While many felt there was a chance of him re-signing, it was getting more and more unlikely by the day. He was a scoring winger on a team that wasn't going to be able to score. 

Seguin, on the other hand, was about to start the first year of a six-year, $34.5 million deal signed before the lockout started in October 2012. He was coming off a postseason to forget, but he still finished third on the Bruins in scoring in 2012-13 and was 21 years old and a former second overall pick.

Basically, you trade a guy that doesn't want to re-sign for your future No. 1 center. 

Instead, the deal was never made and Seguin was traded a few days later to the Dallas Stars along with Rich Peverley and Ryan Button for a package that featured Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith coming back to Boston. Vanek was traded in October to the New York Islanders for Matt Moulson, a first-round pick in 2014 (or 2015 if the Isles finish in the top 10 and decide to defer the pick to next year) and a second-round pick in 2015. 

Since their respective trades, Seguin has found his stride with the Stars, leading them in points with 54 in 53 games and is currently in a four-way tie for 14th in the NHL with Joe Pavelski, Jonathan Toews and Taylor Hall. Vanek is third on the Isles in points with 38 in his 41 games there, but he has just reportedly turned down a "substantial" contract offer and will test free agency in July, according to Newsday's Arthur Staple (via to CBS Sports). 

In the pursuit of fairness, a  few points must be made. 

First, Seguin's success, at least in terms of his scoring prowess, can be attributable in part to playing with Jamie Benn. Lindy Ruff may be a defensive-minded coach, but he has never shied away from putting his best forwards together (see Thomas Vanek and Danny Briere in Buffalo in 2006-07), and it has paid dividends for his young star. 

Second, Regier did receive a "right now" player in return for Vanek in Moulson, along with the two high draft picks. The only questionable part of the move (besides the Islanders making it in the first place) was filling Vanek's spot with a guy that plays similarly to him but not quite at the same level. Like Vanek, Moulson will likely also be flipped at the deadline, as he also is in the last year of his deal. 

Lastly, and probably most important to this discussion, is the fact that Vogl said he was not sure why the deal did not happen, and that makes Chiarelli walking away just as likely as Regier balking. 

But who balked is not really the point because this was the type of deal that Regier had the reputation of being unable to make.

And it's the inability to make that kind of move that has the Sabres in the position they are in now. 

 

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