We've been anticipating a Ryan Miller trade for a year or more, but there was always this faint hope that maybe, possibly, perhaps he would be open to re-signing with Buffalo if the right trade wasn't there.
But after last night's media scrum with GM Tim Murray, those faint optimistic hopes were cut off at the knees.
"No interest? I don't know if he has no interest," Murray said about the possibility of an extension. Then came the dagger: "I know what I think his first choice would be. I don't think signing here is his first choice at his age. We're where we're at, we're the 30th place team. But I wouldn't say he's got no interest."
According to Murray, more than two and less than 10 teams have inquired about Miller, which is the GM's way of saying negotiations are open without actually telling us anything. Asking about Miller and tossing out some names for trade doesn't necessarily mean a team is excitedly offering the farm for the Sabres goalie.
In fact, because a trade wasn't done by the Olympic break or immediately after, the offers clearly haven't come close to meeting what the Sabres think Miller is worth as an asset. Murray said during last night's scrum that in a perfect world he'd get "two real good young players that are two years or so into their development" for his goalie. Good luck. Other GMs smell blood in the water and see a team that will trade Miller by March 5 come hell or high water to get something in return for their longtime leader, who has no great interest to stick around.
Will Murray get the home run return he's seeking for Miller? History suggests fans should temper their expectations and just be thankful to get anything back. With one week to go before the deadline, Murray said trade talks were still cold and nothing was imminent. And that's when he hinted at how committed the Sabres are to moving Miller by stepping down from his own asking price in the very same scrum he named it. And this is what Sabres fans should be really terrified about: The history of the market suggests they'll have to settle.
"I don't think teams are going to bend over backwards to make life easier for us," Murray said. "So a determination will be made on what the best deal is offered and if it's draft picks it's draft picks and we'll turn them into assets and players."
Yesterday on the blog, Matt Larkin broke down just how uninspiring a "first round pick" can be as an asset, even if it sounds attractive for a team in Buffalo's position. When it comes down to it, a mid-to-late first round pick is an unknown asset. In the big picture, a pick like that might help out in a minor way, but odds are that type of return for Miller would have little positive impact on the team's long-term turnaround.
It will go one of two ways with Miller: 1. his name gets added to the long list of goalies traded for pennies on the dollar and the Sabres pick up a first round pick and either another pick or a B grade prospect, or 2. because Miller is the best, most proven goalie to become available through trade in years, the market swells and a bidding war erupts to drive up the price. In that scenario, the Sabres would get a better return than any goalie trade in the past two decades or so.
This morning, the Buffalo News' John Vogl wrote how a Miller trade now seems more inevitable than it ever has. And that's because last night the team's GM not only mentioned Miller's desire was to move on, but that the team was more than willing to oblige.
"Players that treat you right and have played well and hard for you over the years you try to do what's best for them too as long as it fits in to what you're doing," he said.
Because of Miller's contract situation, a trade must happen. It's only a matter of time now. But it's highly unlikely Sabres fans will look back on it and view it as a win.
Hold on to your butts.