I figured, since I keep hearing trade rumors about the Buffalo Sabres goaltenders, it was about time to address it. Buffalo has a huge issue when it comes to goalies, but I think it’s a good issue;
They’ve got a LOT of goalies in their system.
As I’m sure a lot of you have figured out, I’m going to be focusing on Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth. I’ll also step a little into the farm system for Buffalo, and the depth that they have in goaltending.
Let’s start with Ryan Miller. I’ve been a fan of Miller since day one. He came to Buffalo as a starting goalie after the lock out and he didn’t disappoint. I feel he’s been great throughout his time in Buffalo, and at times, he was the only reason to watch the team, especially this past season. I know there’s been a lot of criticism of him, but regardless, he’s still a great goalie. He owns pretty much all of the goalie records in Buffalo, having dethroned Dominik Hasek. I’ll be the first to say that the minute Ryan Miller retires, Buffalo should be sending #30 up to the rafters of First Niagara Center.
That being said, he will be out of Buffalo soon. However, the situation needs to be handled carefully.
Let’s look at Enroth. While he is a backup, he has looked fairly solid in the games that he’s played in. I can’t really assess how he played in the IIHF tournament this year because I didn’t watch. However, from what I saw statistics wise, he did pretty well and led Sweden to the gold. This is a kid who has earned his shot. He more than deserves a chance to be a starting goalie in the NHL. Buffalo is going to be the team to give him that shot. However, like Miller, this situation needs to be handled carefully.
Buffalo also has a lot of support for goalies in the farm system. David Leggio, Williamsville, NY native, has played great hockey the past 2 seasons in Rochester. He could be a suitable back up for Enroth. Buffalo also has Matt Hackett who has shown that he is a more than capable goalie. In addition to those 2 goalies, the Sabres also have Nathan Lieuwen, Connor Knapp, and Andrey Makarov who are young goalies who have displayed a lot of promise.
Buffalo has more goalies than they do roster spots for them.
So, what to do now?
As I said before, Ryan Miller will be traded this off season. Miller’s trade value is huge. If Regier was able to land what he did for Pominville, he should be able to bring in even more for Miller. He is a proven goalie, and can add a lot of value to an NHL team. Miller has also shown that he can win in the playoffs, and has that valued playoff experience. While I personally would rather see Miller spend his career in blue and gold, with the rebuild in process, his value is sky high and his place in Buffalo is no more. This is one move that can make the Sabres rebuild quick and painless if done correctly.
So what to do with Enroth?
He is a restricted free agent for the Buffalo Sabres this season. Buffalo needs to offer Enroth a decent deal, but a realistic one. There’s no reason to sink a ton of money into him. The deal needs to be similar to the one that PK Subban received this past year. It needs to be an increase in pay, yet not the big bucks. Keep Enroth’s deal only for 2-3 years, preferably 2 years. Let him prove that he can be a starting goalie in the NHL. If he delivers, give him the big money and sign him to the long term deal.
As for a backup, Buffalo has the option of bringing up Leggio or Hackett. Leggio has shown that he is worthy of a shot in the NHL. However, he can either play full time in Rochester, or have his time cut in Buffalo serving as a back up. At this point in time, Hackett has more NHL experience than Leggio, but not much. The question is who goes to the Sabres?
I’d rather see Leggio in Buffalo. He’s earned that shot with his exemplary play in Rochester, and he puts a little pressure on Enroth as a starting goalie. That gives Buffalo a couple options with Hackett. Hackett is a restricted free agent as well. They can trade his rights, deal with an offer sheet, or resign him. Personally, I’m not too attached to Hackett. However, he also provides a viable 3rd option for coming to Buffalo to help if Enroth or Leggio struggle. Sign him to a one year deal, and put him in Rochester. He’s your insurance.
Ideally, I’d like to see Lieuwen and Knapp split time in Rochester, but there’s just not enough roster spaces at this point in time for goalies. Makarov stays with the juniors for now. No point in utilizing the contract until Buffalo can assure him a roster spot.
However, there’s one problem with all of this goaltenders.
A goalie is as good as the players that play in front of them. A goalie can be the best goalie in the world, but if the players in front of them are awful, it won’t matter. It doesn’t matter who is in goal for the Sabres, if the defense in front of them isn’t playing well. I said this several times this past season. Buffalo looked horrid in their own end, and left Miller and Enroth hanging out to dry on several occasions. The majority of the time, the goalies were the only reason the games were close. Buffalo needs to make sure that the defense makes smart plays in front of whoever starts in goal. Otherwise, this is all a moot point.
As much as I’m a Miller fan, Miller Time will be coming to an end in Buffalo. Despite the fact that it’ll be tough to see him go, there is a wealth of goaltending options in Buffalo that will hopefully be able to carry the torch.
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As always, Thanks for reading!