Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Common sense would suggest an NHL club
ranked in the top five in both goals scored and against would not be the team
most likely to shake up their roster before the trade deadline.
St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong clearly disagrees with that
line of thinking.
Rather than wonder a few months from now why his team suffered yet another
disappointing playoff performance, Armstrong is attempting to think ahead of
the curve by trading away his No. 1 goaltender in order to land a potentially
better option between the pipes.
That's where Ryan Miller enters the equation. A pending unrestricted free
agent, the longtime Buffalo Sabres goaltender was always a good candidate to
move teams before this season's trade deadline, but the Blues were hardly
mentioned among the teams that desperately needed help in the crease.
Clearly, this move is not meant to be a minor upgrade for St. Louis. Bringing
in Miller is a gamble designed to help the Blues make the transition from a
team with potential to one that could win it all. This is all about trying to
catch the proverbial lightning in a bottle and finally getting St. Louis its
first Stanley Cup title.
"It's exciting," Miller said. "It's a great opportunity to step in to a team
that has confidence, feels good about itself and are playing great hockey."
At worst, Armstrong hopes the Miller deal can give the Blues a little more
staying power come playoff time. The club has a 6-9 record over the past two
postseasons and was ousted from the playoffs by the Los Angeles Kings both
Considering he gave up quite a bit to acquire Miller, it's fairly obvious
Armstrong didn't feel comfortable heading into another postseason with Jaroslav
Halak or No. 2 Brian Elliott as his main goaltending options. Neither
goaltender had bad numbers over the last two postseasons, but Armstrong clearly
saw something he didn't like if he was willing to part ways with three players
and a pair of picks to acquire Miller physical forward Steve Ott
St. Louis parted ways with Halak, forward Chris Stewart, prospect William
Carrier and a pair of draft choices -- a first-rounder in 2015 and a
conditional third-round selection in 2016 -- to land Miller and Ott.
That's quite a haul for Buffalo, which could have lost Miller over the summer
when the goaltender expects to hit the free agent market. The rumor mill
suggests the Sabres may get even more for the deal as the rebuilding club is
shopping Halak ahead of the deadline on Wednesday afternoon.
At a glance, Halak was doing just fine in 2013-14 -- his fourth season with
the Blues. The 28-year-old Slovakian was 24-9-4 with a 2.23 goals against
average, .917 save percentage and four shutouts. In fact, along with Elliott,
who is 15-5-2 with a 2.08 GAA this season, the Blues didn't seem to have to
worry about the goaltending situation at all.
St. Louis is known as a defense-first team. That would make both Halak and
Elliott "system" goaltenders, guys who are believed to benefit more from their
club's stingy play than they contribute to it. In other words, Halak and
Elliott are the exact opposite of Miller, who has carried the lowly Sabres on
his back for much of the 2013-14 campaign.
Playing for a team that had spent almost the entire season at the bottom of
the NHL standings, the 33-year-old Miller posted a 2.72 goals against average
in 40 games with the Sabres, while his .923 save percentage was 10th-best
among netminders at the time of the trade. In theory, with a stout defense in
front of Miller in St. Louis, the former Vezina Trophy winner could regain his
status as the best goalie in the world.
After his first start with the Blues -- a 4-2 win in Phoenix on Sunday --
Miller faced the St. Louis media and was asked many questions about the move
from his longtime hockey home. Particularly interesting was his response to a
question about the pressure he feels knowing the Blues gave up a boatload to
land him for what may turn out to be a rental.
"I just have to try and live up to it," Miller said of the pressure to win
now. "That's part of the game. There's always pressure really at every turn, I
feel like it. If it's not one thing, it's another. So, just gonna try and deal
with it the same way."
Unless the teams agree on a contract extension over the next few months,
Miller could only be in St. Louis to help the club win it all this spring. The
Blues are counting on the veteran backstop to be the piece that bridges the
gap between the club's recent regular-season success and its dreams of
By no means does trading for Miller seem like a necessary move from the Blues'
standpoint, but if it works, you have to give Armstrong credit for taking an
aggressive approach to building a winner.
The Sports Network