TAMPA, Fla. — Unless the Sabres find a desperate trade partner, they’ve missed their best chance to deal Ryan Miller.
Trades involving goaltenders are relatively rare in the NHL, with only 23 deals of note since 2005-06. Just a dozen happened during a season, and the return was far less lucrative than summertime moves.
History shows that folks in Sabreland who are still hoping for a first-round pick or star player in return for Miller are probably dreaming too big.
Only five goalies have brought back a first-round pick— Dwayne Roloson (2006), Tomas Vokoun (2007), Vesa Toskala (2007), Semyon Varlamov (2011) and Cory Schneider (2013) — and just one trade happened during the season. Roloson went from Minnesota to Edmonton for first- and third-round selections.
Just two deals have featured goalies being exchanged for established stars. Only one occurred during a season. Dallas sent goalie Mike Smith, forwards Jussi Jokinen and Jeff Halpern, and a fourth-round draft pick to Tampa Bay for forward Brad Richards and netminder Johan Holmqvist in February 2008.
General managers simply haven’t been willing to pay high prices for a goalie, at least not while games are being played.
A more likely scenario based on past events would have the Sabres getting a second-round pick for Miller. Seven of the 23 deals involved an exchange of second-round selections, but even that asking price is more attainable in the summer. Four of the seven trades came during the offseason, outnumbering the in-season moves of Cristobal Huet (2008), Pascal LeClaire (2009) and Ben Bishop (2012).
The most common in-season trade is goalie-for-goalie, done in five of the 12 transactions, but that shouldn’t appeal to the Sabres. Jhonas Enroth continues to improve and Buffalo has five goaltending prospects.
In order to secure a big return for Miller, the Sabres need a team to either lose its goalie to injury or be desperate for a playoff run.
Edmonton had a veteran club in 2005-06 after big deals for Chris Pronger, Michael Peca and Jaroslav Spacek. The moves would have been for naught if the Oilers didn’t get a goalie. They had no chance in the playoffs with Jussi Markkanen, Ty Conklin or Mike Morrison, so they paid a heavy price to get Roloson.
It worked as he carried them to the Stanley Cup finals before getting hurt in the opening game. The Sabres can try using that as a selling point, but it appears they had a better chance of making someone buy it during the summer.
Barnaby blasts Sabres
A number of retired Sabres are mad and embarrassed at what’s become of their beloved organization. Matthew Barnaby is one who’s willing to make his feelings known publicly.
The longtime agitator and former television analyst was furious after Wednesday’s 5-2 loss to Boston. He delivered a hard-hitting rant toward owner Terry Pegula, General Manager Darcy Regier and coach Ron Rolston on Twitter (which is cleaned up grammatically here because it’s not easy to obey all the rules of writing with a cell phone and 140 characters).
“I’m not a Sabres hater but more of a proud alumni that thinks fans deserve better. Pegula is a great guy but is a fan,” Barnaby wrote. “Sabres were so much better when in bankruptcy. I really don’t understand how Darcy still has a job. Plain and simple there are better GMs and coaches out there.
“Team plays with no passion. Zero. Gives up way too many shots and outnumbered attacks. Team will miss playoffs 8 of 12 years. Not good enough to keep your job.
“Best thing I did was not renew my tickets. Saw this coming and was sick of watching a bad product. … It is really ugly and going to get worse. Saw it last year early. Just because people are in big positions does not make them smart hockey people!”
Teens are a trend
The Sabres have the most teenagers in the NHL with four, but they’re hardly alone. Youngsters are making clubs across the league.
Pittsburgh and Toronto decided during the week not to return their 19-year-olds to their junior organizations. Defenseman Olli Maatta will remain with the Penguins, while fellow blue-liner Morgan Rielly isn’t going anywhere after playing his way into the Maple Leafs’ top four.
“It’s a pretty good feeling,” Rielly said. “I have a lot left to prove. I have to keep working hard and keep getting better.”
Rielly and Maatta were drafted in 2012, two of the 14 first-round picks who’ve already made it to the NHL. Eight of this year’s first-round picks have played, including defensemen Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov of the Sabres.
“There will be down moments, and I hope people keep that in focus,” Penguins blue-liner Brooks Orpik said while talking about Maatta. “But with his talent and work ethic, I don’t think those stretches will last too long.”
Duchene no fan of Sacco
Colorado forward Matt Duchene didn’t always see eye-to-eye with Joe Sacco, the former Avalanche coach hired to be Rolston’s assistant this season. The Avs made the playoffs during their first year together but missed the last three postseasons.
The Avs are among the best and most exciting teams in hockey this season with a new coach, Patrick Roy. That’s not a coincidence, Duchene strongly hinted.
“There’s always been a plan,” Duchene said, “but is it the right plan? Is it the plan that works for this team? We’ve had a young, fast, offensively gifted team for four years and haven’t ever shown that.”
Duchene did well under Sacco during their opening two years together, putting up 51 goals and 122 points. He had 43 points in 47 games last season. He also found himself in Sacco’s doghouse too many times for his liking.
“The one thing with Patrick is there’s no doghouse,” Duchene said. “If you’re not doing what you’re supposed to do, he’s going to bring you in, he’s going to sit you down and you’re going to correct it constructively and then you’re going to move on from there. You don’t stay in that doghouse. That’s the nice part.”
On the fly
• Hockey folks down South stick together. When Nashville hosted Winnipeg on Thursday, the Predators’ mascot wore an Atlanta Thrashers jersey. The Jets moved to Winnipeg from Atlanta in 2011.
• Detroit’s Stephen Weiss had two goals, no assists and a minus-4 rating through his first 11 games, making some wonder why he got a five-year, $24.5 million deal to leave Florida. “This falls on me,” Weiss said. “You have to realize you’re a good hockey player and you’re here for a reason.”
• Predators goalie Pekka Rinne is out at least a month with a bacterial infection in his surgically repaired hip. “His last game was maybe his best game in two years,” coach Barry Trotz said. “Real unfortunate.”