Minnesota Wild Eyeing Sabres’ Ryan Miller? Not So Fast.


Jan 21, 2014; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller (30) heads to the ice to warm up for the game against the Florida Panthers at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

According to multiple rumors, the Minnesota Wild and Buffalo Sabres appear close to a deal that would send goaltender Ryan Miller to St. Paul in return for a 2014 first round pick, Dany Heatley and one of Mikael Granlund or Charlie Coyle.

Before you explode, take a deep, deep breath. Is that better? Good. For now, it’s not happening and hasn’t been legitimately confirmed by anyone in the know. Even though a first round pick and Heatley are expendable, this would be a hefty price to pay, and one that would either make or break Wild GM Chuck Fletcher’s career.

After years of mediocre regular seasons and poor drafts under Doug Risebrough, Fletcher came in and quickly restocked the cupboards with top end prospects and rebuilt the team with solid trades (Coyle, Nino Niederreiter and Jason Pominville) and brilliant signings (Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, anyone?). In the process, however, he’s lost some solid assets like Brent Burns, Nick Leddy, Johan Larsson, Matt Hackett and a first round pick in one of the deepest drafts in the past decade. That pick (16th overall in 2013) would be used by the Sabres to take hulking Russian defenseman Nikita Zadorov, a kid that looks like he’s going to develop into an absolute stud. But, to get quality, you have to give up quality, and that’s worked out fairly good for Minnesota so far.

Amid all the Wild’s struggles with improving their offense and defense, goaltending has always been the organization’s solid foundation–that is–until this season. Josh Harding seemed to emerge as the team’s clear No. 1 goalie, but he can’t shake his issues with multiple sclerosis. Niklas Backstrom has gone from best goalie in franchise history to an oft-injured mentor to rookie Darcy Kuemper, who has confidently taken the starting reins for the time being. Kuemper is young, very big at 6’5″ 205-pounds, uncommonly extremely athletic for his size and has dominated at nearly every level of play he’s faced so far. If he can live up to his potential, Kuemper will be a star in the league for a long time to come.

That said, why give up so much for Ryan Miller? If Fletcher wasn’t willing to give up so much for Thomas Vanek, why should he for Miller? So far, we’ve restocked Buffalo’s prospect pool with a potential No. 1 goalie (Hackett), a potential team captain and top-6 forward (Larsson), a potential top-4 franchise defenseman (Zadorov) taken with our 2013 first round pick and a second round pick in next year’s draft. There’s no way Fletcher discards another first round pick and top prospect for an aging goaltender, especially if he isn’t guaranteed to re-sign with the club.

Another thing, with Minnesota’s struggling offensive corps, trading Heatley and one of Granlund/Coyle for Miller doesn’t make the team a playoff contender. The Granlund/Pominville express has been one of the biggest reasons for Minnesota’s success and trading two top-6 forwards is counterproductive to what Fletcher is trying to do–build a serious Cup contender. With the current injuries, trading Heatley and say Coyle (because they sure as heck aren’t getting rid of Granlund) creates an offensive corps that looks a little something like this:

Parise – Granlund – Pominville

Jason Zucker – Erik Haula – Niederreiter

Matt Cooke – Kyle Brodziak – Justin Fontaine

Mike Rupp – Torrey Mitchell – Stephane Veilleux

Yeah, it’s that bad. Granted, things would get better with Mikko Koivu’s return, but not by much. Quite frankly, while Heatley is expendable, Minnesota isn’t going to trade away a moose of a player like Coyle. The guy just manhandles his way through the offensive zone, making opposing players play the game according to his rules and providing good top-6 offensive support. Long story short, this particular trade doesn’t help the Wild–it breaks the team’s back.

Will Ryan Miller be traded this season? I can practically guarantee it, but there’s no way Fletcher bites unless it’s for the right price. In the meantime, we can confirm, thanks to Pioneer Press beat writer Chad Graff, that this proposed scenario is all speculation at this point.

There you go. We’ll have more as the situation develops.