The trade that will likely go down as the biggest of the deadline actually happened five days before the end of the trade season. The Sabres and Blues sent a blockbuster to the league office, and when it was all settled, four roster players, one prospect, and two picks changed hands.
We know what the Sabres gave up, but what exactly did they gain? Just like Diglett, let's dig deep into each piece of the trade to find out how it affects the Sabres ongoing rebuild.
Jaroslav Halak - Buffalo got a goaltender back in the trade, which Tim Murray said was not a requirement, but this was likely a move to facilitate the salary cap for St. Louis. As this post from St. Louis Game Time shows, the numbers between Miller and Halak over the past few years are actually pretty close. However, Halak has not been as consistent as Miller has been, especially this season as Miller's turned up his game for both the Olympics and likely to showcase himself for a trade.
Halak, like Miller, is a pending UFA who has shown flashes of brilliance throughout his career, and could still be traded before the deadline to a team looking to shore up their goaltending. Were he to stay in Buffalo, he would likely back up Jhonas Enroth, who the team would like to see take over the starting role in order to gauge what a possible future with Enroth might look like. I would be shocked if the team went ahead and re-signed him, despite their organizational youth in goal.
Chris Stewart - When I first heard of the deal, I compared Stewart to Drew Stafford - after all, they're both big bodied, power forward right wingers. However, that's not really a fair comparison; over the past few seasons, Stewart has been a much more consistent annual scorer than Stafford. Since 2009, Stewart has scored at a rate equivalent to 26 goals per 82 games, while Stafford has average 21 goals per 82 over the same time frame. He also hits, on average, almost twice as much as Stafford, though we know how subjective those numbers can be.
However, Stewart is the type of player who doesn't always take advantage of his talents. He's been described as a guy who fans keep waiting on to "figure it out", and they're still waiting. But he has one more year left on his deal after this, he seems to get a bump in production when he changes teams, and if anyone can get a player to work consistently hard, it's Ted Nolan. The Sabres could keep the 25-year old moving forward...but like Halak, Stewart might be a name that draws interest at the deadline, and reports are already floating around that the Sabres could be moving him, with Ottawa as a potential destination.
William Carrier - We don't know too much about him, so we'll let two other speak for us. First, from ESPN and Hockey Prospectus, Corey Pronman:
Carrier was one of the harder guys to get a read on in last year's entry draft. He's a pretty good skater with pro-average size, good skill, finishing ability and can play with a physical edge. However, he does have a consistency issue and he needs to improve his defensive game. The majority thought on Carrier is that he's a player with top-six upside, is an above-average prospect who also carries above-average risk on his projection. He is not one of Buffalo's top seven or eight prospects currently, keeping in mind they have a very good system.
And this, from the always-fantastic Kris Baker of Sabres Prospects:
Selected 57th overall by the Blues in the 2013 draft, Carrier (pronounced Care-ee-AY) is a powerful skater with a well-rounded offensive game.
The Sabres had a clear need for left wing talent leading up to the deal, and Carrier certainly helps fill that void. He brings a big shot to the pipeline, and isn't afraid to hit the so-called "dirty areas" to make a play. While he brings good speed to the table, his offensive instincts shine when he uses patience to make plays. When breaking down game tape, you immediate notice his ability to get beneath the hash marks to leverage his above-average hands and vision in tight. Carrier will turn 20 in December, and thus is eligible to join the AHL's Rochester Americans for the 2014-15 season.
Carrier was a first round prospect in 2013 who saw his draft stock fall thanks to an injury that caused him to miss a big chunk of his draft season. Carrier joins J.T. Compher, Connor Hurley, and Justin Bailey as the Sabres collection of 2013 second round picks.
STL 2015 first round pick - I've heard some people complaining that "this pick is going to be in the low 20's, so what good is it?" A few responses to that - first, nobody knows where this pick will be in 2015. Nothing is guaranteed in this league, especially the Western Conference, and there is a chance (albeit small) that the Blues could find themselves out of the playoffs next year. Second, this gives the Sabres more ammo with which to wheel and deal. More picks, prospects, and players only means more flexibility on the trade market.
Finally, and most importantly - even if it is a low pick, it's still a first rounder, and the Sabres will still draft a good prospect with it. Buffalo needs second and third liners to go along with the Sam Reinharts and Connor MacDavids of the world, that is, unless you want Ville Leino and Matt D'Agostini to be playing top six minutes for the next four years. There's more to building a Cup contender than drafting first overall every year, and besides, that what our own pick is for, right?
STL conditional pick - Some new information came out about this pick today, so here's where we stand: If the Blues make the Western Conference Finals OR if Ryan Miller re-signs there before the draft, then this pick becomes St. Louis's 2014 first round pick, likely in the low 20's. However, in return for that condition being met, Buffalo would have to send two 2014 picks back to St. Louis - Minnesota's second round pick (which the Sabres got from the Pominville deal) and their own third round pick. If the original conditions are not met, than this pick remains a 2016 third round pick for the Sabres.
On the surface, I think this deal is good for both teams. For those who thought the Sabres could have gotten more for Miller, remember, the goalie market this year is as soft as it's ever been, and is unpredictable at best. Look at the last few big goalie trades - Toronto acquired Jonathan Bernier for a depth winger, backup goalie, and a second rounder. Cory Schneider's trade netted Vancouver just one first round pick. When Phoenix traded the red-hot Ilya Bryzgalov, all they got back was a depth winger, a third round pick and a conditional pick. I mean, really, look at this list of goalie trades and find one where the team trading the star got back an avalanche of good players.
I don't think it's fair to grade this trade, however, until we know Murray's plans with Halak and Stewart. If one or both are kept, it's a very different thing than if they both get shipped out in other deals to bring more youth and picks to a rebuilding franchise. As of right now, I'm pretty pleased with what came back, but that bounty could look completely different by Wednesday's deadline.