As speculation intensifies over the future of Ryan Miller, there’s one thing that's clear to me: it makes more sense for new Sabres GM Tim Murray to trade him sooner than later. The closer we get to the NHL’s March 5 trade deadline, the better the chance Buffalo gets pennies (or maybe not even a single penny) on the dollar for the franchise’s most important player of the past decade. And the potential for that happening should keep Murray awake 24/7 until Miller is an ex-Sabre.
Let’s get to the “we knows” pertinent to Miller’s situation: We know there are GMs who prefer to act well in advance of the deadline and head off the temptation to get in a bidding war against (a) their counterparts; and (b) the clock itself. We know the goaltender market is a buyer’s market at present. And we know Miller is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this year.
Do any of those factors suggest to you that Murray would be best served to bide his time and let the trade partners come to him? They shouldn’t. They should tell you he needs to be aggressive – not rabid or panicky, but resolute in moving Miller and ending the Darcy Regier/Lindy Ruff Era once and for all.
Times like these are what separates savvy GMs from timid ones. Murray has to scope out the market, identify some targets – St. Louis? Minnesota? My personal darkhorse in the race, Pittsburgh? – and work quickly before another team unloads Craig Anderson, Michael Neuwirth or Cam Ward on them for a cheaper price. Passiveness is weakness here and Murray can't allow his first major move as GM to seem like he was forced into it.
Yes, there's a chance another team enters the trade picture due to an injury before, during or after the Olympics. But hoping that scenario plays out would be a huge risk with a terrible downside for Murray. The safer, smarter move is to insist time is of the essence with Miller now and get as much as possible. Every day he gets closer to walking away for nothing as a UFA is more of an insult to Sabres fans’ loyalty.
The ideal time to move Miller was one or two years ago, when he still had term on his contract. But waiting until the very last second – or even worse, not moving him at all – would represent the ultimate bungling of a top-tier asset.