Thanks to the lockout, the NHL draft is on Sunday and the free agency frenzy starts a week after on July 5th. That means that over the next six days trade rumors are going to start heating up and some deals will actually go down. The Sabres have been talked about as a team that could move either Ryan Miller or Thomas Vanek at the draft. Most teams are always looking for a forward that has the potential to score 40 or 50 goals in a season so trying to find a market for Vanek probably won't be all that difficult. The goaltending market on the other hand is a completely different animal. Most teams settled as to who their goaltender will be heading into next season so it really limits the Sabres' trade options. Here is a look at the teams that may be interested and what their options are in other markets.
Teams That Could Be Interested
Trending Buffalo did a piece yesterday on possible destinations for where Miller could be going so we won't go too in depth on that. I will highlight here that Ryan Miller does have a modified no-trade clause that allows him to choose eight teams that he will not accept a trade to. It has been speculated that Miller would want to head west if a trade were to happen but most of the teams in the Western Conferences don't have a need to fill at goaltender.
I would expect that if the Sabres were to deal Miller here in the next week or two that Philadelphia would be the leading candidate in that market. They do already have a goaltender in Ilya Bryzgalov, but the rumors have been high that he could be bought out. The Flyers cap situation would require him to be bought out to bring in Miller so watch their moves in the next couple of days. Also, depending on a lot of things, the Phoenix Coyotes/NHL Plan B might be a good western team that could be looking for a goaltender.
Free Agency Market
If teams were to look at the free agent market for a goaltender, it would be a bit of a barren wasteland. Here is a partial list of 2013 unrestricted free agents starting with the most expensive: Tim Thomas, Nikolai Khabibulin, Evgeni Nabokov, Mike Smith, Jose Theodore, Chris Mason, Mathieu Garon, Jason Labarbera, and Ray Emery. From that list, only Khabibulin, Nabokov, and Smith were full-time starting goaltenders last season.
Mike Smith is going to be an interesting name to watch. Smith played 34 games for the Coyotes last season, going 15-12-5 with a .910 save percentage and 2.58 goals against average. He also had five shutouts on the season, which led the league along with four other goaltenders. Smith's last contract was a two-year $4 million deal and at the age of 31, he very well may be looking at a long-term deal to finally cash in. The question is who exactly is going to pay him big dollars.
There are two restricted free agents out there that might be in play in Tuukka Rask and Sergei Bobrovsky. Both goaltenders are coming off huge seasons with Rask in the Stanley Cup Finals and Bobrovsky winning the Vezina trophy. The Blue Jackets are having a hard time re-signing Bobrovsky and the threat of him heading to the KHL is present with news coming out that there has been some discussions between the league and player. The Bruins' season just ended so starting the process of getting Rask signed probably will start in the next couple of days.
There is always a caveat to mention when looking at restricted free agents and that is most teams don't make offer sheets. Only a handful of offer sheets have gone out since the lockout started and with the restrictions from the new CBA, the advantage of the offer sheet has all but disappeared. But, the Flyers are one aggressive team and they aren't afraid to go after someone if they really want them. We only have to point out the Shea Weber contract from last year.
Likelihood of Miller Getting Moved
The Buffalo Sabres front office have repeatedly said that they want both Miller and Vanek to stay with the team long term. The signs are all there though that one if not both are going to be moved at the start of the season. With the lack of teams really wanting a goaltender and other teams still trying to move one, see Roberto Luongo, I put the chances of Miller being with the team at the starting of training camp at 50%.