Well, a couple NHL teams decided not to wait until the trade deadline to pull off a deal. Everybody knew that the Buffalo Sabres were open for business, and that two of the names on the table were Ryan Miller and Steve Ott. Both guys ended up getting dealt in the same deal, and that trade has strengthened perhaps the best team in the NHL. The Sabres have dealt Miller and Ott to the St. Louis Blues.
In exchange for those two players, Buffalo received Jaroslav Halak, Chris Stewart, prospect William Carrier, a 2015 first-round pick, and a 2016 third-round pick. That's a lot of stuff changing hands. Clearly, the Blues are looking to win now, and with good cause. They've been one of the best teams in the West. They are deep, they have defense and scoring, and they even had solid goaltending. Halak has a .917 save percentage this year, which is also his career total. He's a good goalie. Brian Elliott is pretty alright too. Miller, though? He's a great goalie.
This is a guy posting a .923 save percentage behind a terrible team. He's been bombarded with shots. He has a Vezina. Miller is a step up on Halak, and he is also a workhorse. Ott is decent player too, who has a different role than Stewart, who Ken Hitchcock didn't seem to like anyway. Sure, Miller is a free agent after this season, but so is Halak. That's not an issue. Especially when, with Miller, this team might be the favorites to win the Cup. St. Louis has a really formidable team now. They didn't give away anything key to this season. They mortgaged their future a bit, but given their present, that's a worthwhile trade. I really like this deal for the Blues.
I kind of like it for Buffalo too. The Sabres aren't going anywhere. Their brightest hope is getting the first overall pick. They are rebuilding. They have a new GM and a new head coach (who is their old head coach, but I digress). Miller wasn't likely to come back. Maybe Halak will. Or he doesn't, and this team moves on in net. Maybe to Jonas Enroth. Maybe not. Ott also had no future with the Sabres.
Stewart, on the other hand, is under contract for a little while. He takes too many penalties, but he's scored 28 goals in a season twice. He's only 26, and he could be a 20 goal scorer for this team. I mean, he's not a huge piece, but you don't get huge pieces for rentals. Carrier is a 19-year-old former second round pick still in the QMJHL. A first rounder, even a late one, which is likely what Buffalo will get, has value. This isn't a "steal" for the Sabres, but you don't tend to get steals when you deal with smart organizations.
The Blues have struck first in the arms race in the battle for the Cup. The Sabres have really, truly turned the page. Hopefully this is the beginning of an exciting trade deadline.