Several Minnesota Wild trade rumors began to surface Monday morning saying that they are the leading candidate for the services of Buffalo Sabres and USA Olympic team goaltender Ryan Miller. The Sabres are seeking a large ransom from any team that is in the conversation for Miller as he has been arguably the league’s best and most consistent goalie for the better part of 6 years.
The price the Wild are willing to pay, according to several reports, is likely the best offer that Buffalo has received this year. Rumors have pointed to Dany Heatley, Charlie Coyle, and first round draft pick. One rumor even has Charlie Coyle being replaced by Mikael Granlund. The Wild are familiar with swapping players with the Sabres after they dealt 2 prospects and 2 draft picks for Jason Pominville prior to last season’s deadline.
The Wild have been put to the test this season when it comes to goalies, and for the most part, they have aced it. Niklas Backstrom went down early in the year and Josh Harding more than answered the call, quickly becoming the talk of the NHL because of his efforts. Recently, Harding has struggled with complications with his MS treatment and Darcy Kuemper has played fantastic as interim starting goalie.
While Wild fans have had to hold their breath at times this season, there is no reason to give up highly touted prospects for an aging goaltender. Granlund is a premier young player in the NHL and his ability to create scoring chances for other players has been a big reason for the second line’s consistent success throughout the season. The only true knock on Granlund is that he is clearly undersized. Although, if you watch a game this year compared to last year, he has been much more comfortable with the puck. Coyle is a superb power forward who has all the tools to dominate in front of the net as he continues to age. The only justifiable element of the trade is the salary dump of Dany Heatley, who will be a free agent this summer no matter where he finishes the season. Besides Heatley, any moves involving a first round pick and Granlund or Coyle would be a step in the wrong direction.
Another hidden aspect of this trade that can’t go unnoticed is the Wild’s free agency plans at the end of this year. Minnesota seems to be the logical destination for Islanders forward and free-agent-to-be Thomas Vanek when his contract expires. The scenario that seems to make sense is to let Heatley walk and virtually give his $7.5 million contract to Vanek. Ryan Miller will be seeking a large contract as well, likely in the $6 million range. While it is plausible that both players could be supported with the league salary cap going up next season, the Wild could better spend that money to fill other holes in the lineup.
As it stands, none of these reports have been confirmed or denied by the Wild or the Sabres brass. They are simply rumors at this point. Chuck Fletcher hasn’t been afraid to shake things up in the past, and to his credit, the majority of the moves under his tenure have been spot on. But if there is any truth to these rumors, he should take a deep breath and reconsider.