The big splash of the trade deadline came on Friday night, five days before the trade deadline, when the St. Louis Blues acquired Ryan Miller and Steve Ott from the Buffalo Sabres for Jaroslav Halak, Chris Stewart, prospect William Carrier, a first-round draft pick in 2015 and a third-round pick in 2016.
What does this mean for the Buffalo Sabres? Before specific players are addressed, the Sabres are likely to receive the first overall pick this year, will likely have a high first-round pick next year (2015), along with the Islanders’ first round pick and the Blues’ first rounder. The rebuild for the Sabres could last between three and four years before the time ends up on top again.
To address the deal itself. The Sabres get a competent goalie that reached the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2010 playoffs with the eighth-seeded Canadiens, starting in front of Carey Price. Since leaving the Habs, he has split time with Brian Elliot with a successful Blues team that has struggled to get over the hurdle facing teams such as the Blackhawks, Sharks and Canucks in the Western Conference.
The Sabres also receive Chris Stewart, a prototypical power forward in the NHL. He may be an additional piece in another trade before the deadline, on March . Rumors have it; Matt Moulson and Stewart will be a package deal to go to Ottawa, a competitive team currently battling for a spot in the playoffs.
It is clear that the Sabres are in the midst of a rebuild. To determine how long that rebuild will last, depends on what they decide to do with their first round picks. Buffalo could walk away from next 2 drafts with Sam Reinhart or Aaron Ekblad in ’14, & Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel in ’15.
With Halak being a pending UFA this upcoming offseason, there are rumors that Halak will be moved before the deadline, similarly to Stewart. Halak may end up going to Minnesota, a team in the same situation as Ottawa, battling for a playoff spot. The funny thing about the Minnesota Wild, they have former Sabres’ captain, Jason Pominville already under contract. Another former co-captain, Thomas Vanek, may look to join longtime teammate, Pominville in Minnesota as a homecoming since Vanek attended the University of Minnesota.
With the page being turned in Buffalo, it will be difficult to reminisce about the Ryan Miller days and think how the big games could not be won. The closest the Sabres came to a cup contender was when they won the Presidents’ Trophy in the 06-07 campaign. They made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they were ultimately ousted by their division foe, the Ottawa Senators.
The Sabres are long past the days of Drury, Briere, Pominville, Vanek and now Miller. Today marks an important day in Sabres history. They are turning the page on a team that had high hopes. Management will have to look to the future if they want to be on top of the NHL again.