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Thanks to a tweet just a few hours ago, the Tampa Bay Lightning twitter-verse is alive and buzzing with rumors suggesting that the Lightning and Buffalo Sabres are talking trade and that Ryan Miller is a central figure in discussions. This isn’t speculation or a bogus rumor from somebody who can’t spell ‘hockey’ or ‘insider’. This is a legitimate point of interest from Darren Millard of SportsNet in Toronto. Here is the tweet that started the firestorm:
Immediately, numerous fans, bloggers, and pundits weighed in with their thoughts on a potential deal. Since taking over as the Lightning blogger here at HockeyBuzz, I’ve tried to stay away from rumors and speculation while sticking to cold hard facts. However, with the trade deadline right around the corner and the rumor mill heating up, it’s hard not to get in on the action. With all that said, here are some thoughts on the Miller/Lightning rumors.
* After beating the Sabres on Tuesday night, the Lightning’s chances at making the playoffs increased to just over 13% per Sports Club Stats. The same “experts” peg the Sabres’ chances at a measly 3.3%. Looking at those numbers, it’s fairly clear that neither one of these groups will be playing come the post-season. That being said, new Lightning head coach Jon Cooper has indicated that he is here to make the playoffs this season. He doesn’t believe this team is out of the race, and he is committed to making sure that the Lightning remain competitive down the stretch and into the future. With Anders Lindback out indefinitely, that’s going to be a challenge-and-a-half. In all fairness to Mathieu Garon, the Lightning’s current goaltending setup isn’t good enough to get the job done. From that perspective, a deal for Miller makes a lot of sense.
* Ignore the Lindback injury for a moment and the Lightning’s goaltending situation still isn’t peaches and cream. Despite a fairly strong string of games prior to being injured, Anders Lindback has been inconsistent at best. Add to that the unpredictable play of Mathieu Garon and Cedrick Desjardins, and it becomes abundantly clear that this team certainly still has issues in the crease. Readers of mine know that I am a huge Anders Lindback fan. He’s got great size, he’s mobile, and he seems like a standup young player. Still, at some point the Lightning need to take that next step to become legitimately competitive. With only a few seasons of top production from Martin St. Louis left, can Steve Yzerman head into next season with a Lindback/Garon tandem as he did this past season? Can the Lightning really bank on great development strides from Lindback over the summer? Those are tough questions to answer.
* The potential benefits that would come with acquiring Ryan Miller speak for themselves. At 32 years old, Miller is young enough to be more than competitive while the Lightning continue to groom Andrei Vasilevski until he is ready to take the reins. With one season left at $6.25million, Miller does come with a hefty price tag. However, adding him to a roster that already includes Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, Victor Hedman, Matt Carle and many other good pieces only makes the Lightning that much more competitive. Is it fair to say that the Lightning might have been in a better position this season with Ryan Miller on the roster? You bet. That alone is reason enough to at least pick up the phone and call Darcy Regier.
* The last thing to consider when looking at a potential Ryan Miller deal is obviously the price. What would it take to land the former Olympian? What kind of deal would the Sabres be looking for? Given their position in the standings, the Sabres would probably be looking for youth. What young pieces do the Lightning have to deal? Not wanting to stir up any rumors, I’ll shy away from giving my thoughts, but I’d love to hear from you on the message boards. What’s the price for a one of the league’s better goaltenders who has struggled this year? That’s the big question.
* Personally, I'm not a member of the faction that believes a deal for Ryan Miller is needed. Yes, the Lightning have their problems in net. Yes, Ryan Miller would be an improvement. That being said, I don't know that the Lightning are in a position to give up the value needed to acquire a player like Miller. As exciting as this rumor might be, I'm not sure that it passes the smell test or makes that much sense for Steve Yzerman's big picture.
With the trade deadline a week away, this is certainly a storyline to keep an eye on. Will Steve Yzerman make a deal for a goaltender? Will that goaltender be Ryan Miller? Things are heating up here in Bolts Nation, and there’s undoubtedly a lot to be excited about right now. With a new coach, rumors, and the league’s leading goal scorer, things aren’t as dreary as they might seem here in Tampa.
As always, thanks for reading.