It has become increasingly inevitable that the Sabres will need to shake things up, and they are going to need to do it soon. Despite Darcy Regier publicly stating that he is not ready to blow up the team, numerous news outlets are reporting that that is not the case. The Sabres are ready to move on from the core and could be very active come the trade deadline. Its definitely time for certain players to go, but the team shouldn't give up on everyone. Its all about making the right trades.
Jason Pominville has proved that he is not the right leader of this group. After the first lines' huge start to the season, he's cooled down considerably. It may be easier to argue towards keeping Pominville if he wasn't the captain. That really isn't his role, and his constant dismissal of any blame or calling out any aspect of the teams play has seeped into the rest of the roster. The Sabres mentality starts right at the top of their roster with their captain. Pominville's complete lack of any fire is really why it isn't working with him at the helm, and his constant post-game interviews in which he says absolutely nothing is exactly why he's a bad a leader for this group. There doesn't seem to be any accountability, or desire to push his teammates to the next level.
That all being said, Pominville would definitely garner interest from other teams in the NHL. Although he likely isn't the guy you want as the center of your team, he's a solid depth scorer at a decent price tag. He could be very appealing to a team looking for that added piece to make a run, especially since his contract only goes to the end of next season.
Enter the LA Kings. The Kings had a rough start to the season, but they are now sitting in sixth place in the Western Conference. Last year they weren't afraid to add a guy like Jeff Carter to the lineup, and it really helped push them over the edge. The Kings have seen first hand that a move like this can work, and Pominville could be a solid fit out there. If traded would be second on the Kings in scoring.
Who would the Sabres get in return you might ask? A player that the Kings have been trying to move for a while, Jonathan Bernier.
Its been reported that the Kings have had problems finding a suitor for Jonathan Bernier, as well as that they would not trade him to a team in the Western Conference. If the Sabres were interested that'd be about as far away from Los Angeles as they could get him.
Let's take a closer took at Jonathan Bernier. Bernier, a former first round pick, is a 24 year old backup goaltender for the Kings. This season he's played in 10 games with a 7-3 record. Now he has played far fewer games, but he does have a better save percentage (.912) and goals against average (1.94) than Ryan Miller.
Bernier is a restricted free agent at the end of the season, but he is currently being paid $1,250,000 this season. The money that Bernier would get next season would likely not even come close to what Miller is being paid right now. The Kings have $9,000,000 in cap room, so they wouldn't need to dump much salary in the trade either.
The Sabres would have a young goalie to move forward with that would cost much less and open up some salary to re-sign a guy like Thomas Vanek next season. Of course a big part of this picture would also be finding someone to trade Ryan Miller to as well.
There should be options for a Miller trade, but as mentioned earlier the market for goaltenders is reportedly not huge. Tampa has now been the hot rumor, but with only about 6 million in cap they would need to dump salary to be able to bring him in. Miikka Kiprusoff will reportedly retire at the end of the season, so Calgary might be an option as well.
The team that makes a great deal of sense and has tons of cap room would be the Colorado Avalanche. With 14 million dollars in room they can do just about whatever they'd like salary-wise. Semyon Varlamov is having a pretty lackluster season, losing a majority of his games and posting a goals against average over three. Jean-Sebastien Giguere isn't exactly the goalie of the future either at age 35.
The Avalanche have desired moving one of their centers, with the most usual name being Paul Stastny. Stastny is a big cap hit at 6 million as well, but he hasn't exactly been living up to potential of late. He has eight goals and eleven assists this season and a change in scenery might do him well. Its not a perfect fit, but he is a bigger center and would add a bit more size to the Sabres roster.
The problem with a Colorado trade is that there aren't many other current roster players that the team would be willing to part with or would be near the caliber the Sabres would desire for Miller. Ryan O'Reilly can't be traded this season due to his new contract, and Matt Duchene is likely not a piece Colorado would want to move. Erik Johnson is also probably untouchable, and Jan Hejda, Greg Zanon, Ryan Wilson, or Shane O'Brien (all over 2 million a year) aren't going to get people very excited.
In actuality I don't know a perfect Ryan Miller trade, and I'd be lying to you if I said I did. It may be very difficult to pull off, but not impossible. What it comes down to is if the Sabres can move Miller, it is something they should really consider. Even though he does have talent, it isn't enough to make this team great. Its time for the Sabres to change the way they put together teams, and it starts by shipping out the core.
This could be a very good year to sell and the Sabres seem to be a perfect fit for that. They have many players with some level of talent that would be appealing to a team who wants those last few pieces. Whether its a guy like Drew Stafford and Robyn Regehr, almost the entire team should be tradeable in Regier's mind. Its time to mix things up, and let's hope that next week will be at least an interesting one for Sabres fans.