If you go back to the beginning of last season, Thomas Vanek, Ryan Miller, and Jason Pominville were all on the roster of the Buffalo Sabres – plus they would be considered the key core to the team. Since then, Pominville was traded to the Minnesota Wild, Thomas Vanek was sent to the New York Islanders, and it sounds as if Ryan Miller is on his way out of Buffalo before the trade deadline expires.
It was recently reported that Vanek has turned down a deal from the Islanders, which means that he will most likely be traded before the deadline, especially since he will be an unrestricted free agent come the summer. The Islanders still have some time to try to convince the Austrian winger to stay, but the clock is beginning to tick faster.
On the Miller front, things have seemed to cool down just slightly, rumors were rampant last week that the superstar netminder may be on the move before the Olympic break. There has also been chatter that the Sabres want to try to re-sign Miller, but speculation has come into play because at times it seems as if he has one foot already out the door.
That brings us today, in The Hockey News’ Rumor Round-up it was stated that Vanek and Miller could be reunited with their old friend Pominville in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Entering a free agent market where the salary cap is projected to rise from $64.3 million to $71.1 million, Vanek should receive lucrative contract offers from several clubs. The Minnesota Wild could be among the suitors. They’re shedding Dany Heatley’s contract at season’s end and Vanek has ties to the state (he played his college hockey at the University of Minnesota).
Vanek’s former Sabres teammate Ryan Miller is also expected to be on the move by the March trade deadline. Recent Internet trade buzz claimed the Wild were close to making a significant offer for him.
You may have also noticed that Vanek’s ties to Minnesota run deeper than former teammate Jason Pominville, he was also a stand-out hockey star for the University of Minnesota – he led the Golden Gophers in points in the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons. The icing on the cake, Vanek’s wife is a native of Minnesota. All good signs that Vanek could be extremely interested in playing for the Wild.
Miller’s second connection is purely hockey related, the Wild could use a goaltender. Three Wild netminders have basically split time throughout the season. Josh Harding has played the most games (29) and also has the best record (18 wins). When Nicklas Backstrom has played it hasn’t been very good, his record is 5-11-2 in 21 games played. The third goalie, Darcy Kuemper, has played in 13 games and has 6 wins. If Minnesota wants to make the playoffs, and have a deep run, they are going to need a reliable goalie in the crease. Miller could be their answer.
What is the difference maker in this situation, Tim Murray, the new general manager of the Sabres. He will want to make a name for himself, and he may just do it by making a blockbuster trade shipping Miller out of Buffalo. The asking price will be high though, not to say that it won’t be for Vanek as well. Will the Minnesota Wild be able to add both Vanek and Miller without giving away too much?