As I watch the Stanley Cup playoffs, it’s easy to appreciate the usual amount of dramatic hockey you see. It’s also hard to watch without thinking about it within the prism of the Sabres’ offseason. What the Sabres do in preparation for the draft June 30 in Newark, N.J., through free agency and the rest of the summer, is utterly fascinating to ponder. If you were to forecast their still-no-name division for next season, you might pick them seventh out of the eight teams (wasn’t Detroit on a downward spiral?). That’s largely because of who might be going without knowing who’s coming. But at least things will be different in many ways other than, of course, in the general manager’s office. It would seem the Sabres want to keep Thomas Vanek. From listening to him at the end of the season and at locker cleanout day, he wants out. It would seem the Sabres are more set on dealing Ryan Miller. It would seem with the farewell-tour atmosphere around his 500th game that Miller is fine with that. It stands to reason there’s a good package out there to be had for Vanek. Not so sure about Miller. Especially with the salary cap going down, teams are going to be very discerning about spending more than $6 million on a 33-year-old goalie, even if it’s only for one year. So I really question whether a goalie-challenged team like, say, the Florida Panthers, gets involved in any Miller deal. Too bad, too, since the Sabres would love Florida’s No. 2 pick. So how does it all fit with the playoffs? My theory is Miller’s likeliest landing point might be a team that thinks it’s close to a Cup but not getting the job done in net. Somebody in that scenario might take that one-year flyer on him. What would clearly be Miller’s first choice? Anaheim. Jonas Hiller, who has one year left at $4.5 million, was OK against Detroit (2.46 goals-against average and .917 save percentage) but was beaten three times in overtime and a No. 2 seed that once had a 13-game home winning streak can’t go out in the first round. Viktor Fasth, who had a great rookie year, never got off the bench. Who else might want to move on Miller? I’d peg St. Louis. While Brian Elliott had a 1.90 GAA, he lost four straight to Los Angeles and gave up a weak OT winner in Game Five. And Jaroslav Halak is clearly tiring of coach Ken Hitchcock.
Several teams could fit Miller like a glove
Buffalo News | May 18