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Fantasy Spin: Miller has top-five potential with Blues

by Pete Jensen

Ryan Miller being traded from the Buffalo Sabres to the St. Louis Blues should have a night-and-day impact on his fantasy value.

Plain and simple, it's an opportunity for this workhorse goalie to prove he still has top-five fantasy capability at his position.

Miller, who leaves Buffalo as the franchise's all-time leader in wins (284 in 540 games played), had a knack for putting his team on his back in good times and bad. This season, even with the Sabres rebuilding and in the basement of the NHL standings, his .923 save percentage ranks 10th in the NHL despite him facing the sixth-most shots League-wide (1,411).

Moving from one of the NHL's most porous defensive teams to one of its best, Ryan Miller could once again become a top-five fantasy goalie option in St. Louis. (Photo: Getty Images)

Over the past three seasons, only Ondrej Pavelec (4,635) and Mike Smith (4,533) have faced more shots than Miller (4,469). He has faced 40-plus shots in a game 10 times so far in 2013-14, the second-highest total behind Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier (11).

But in all likelihood, those days are over.

The Blues, who sport three top-15 fantasy defensemen in Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk and Jay Bouwmeester, have arguably the League's most well-rounded unit on the back end. As a team, St. Louis allows the second-fewest shots per game in the NHL (26.6) behind only the New Jersey Devils (25.3). The Blues have finished first or second in the NHL in that department in each season dating back to 2010-11.

St. Louis' previous goalie tandem of Jaroslav Halak (who was traded to Buffalo in the Miller package) and Brian Elliott has recorded shutouts at a high rate for years. This season, that duo has combined for seven team shutouts, second most in the NHL behind the Los Angeles Kings (10). In 2011-12, Halak and Elliott combined for 15 shutouts. Now, with Halak's fantasy value taking a sizable hit, Miller steps into a pretty ideal situation.

There's more than enough evidence to indicate Miller, a borderline top-20 fantasy goalie entering the season and top-15 goalie prior to the trade, is bound to jump in the fantasy ranks at his position. With his contract set to expire at season's end, fantasy owners invested in him later in drafts by selecting him on average with a seventh-round pick in Yahoo leagues. He was the ultimate buy-low option because there was a legitimate chance he would be traded to a contender.

Ryan Miller
Goalie - BUF
RECORD: 15-22-3
GAA: 2.72 | SVP: 0.923
It was a calculated risk, but the blockbuster trade on Friday proved to be a hefty reward to those fantasy owners who showed their patience with Miller and the Sabres this season. While Elliott remains in the mix for occasional playing time, this trade was made for a reason.

Miller has been a top-five fantasy goalie before and he's in prime position to regain that value over the Blues' final 23 regular-season games. From winning the Vezina Trophy in 2010 to leading Buffalo to the Presidents' Trophy in 2006-07, Miller has a reputation for not only giving his team a high volume of starts but also rising to the occasion despite the heavy workload.

While Miller's future in St. Louis remains unclear beyond this season due to his expiring contract, the Blues have a chance to cast away their playoff demons and make a legitimate run at the franchise's first Stanley Cup championship. Keeper league or not, Miller is still in his prime at 33 years old and warrants ownership in all league formats.

Obstacles remain in the deep Western Conference, as the NHL-leading Anaheim Ducks, the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks, the always-dangerous San Jose Sharks and the Kings, who have eliminated the Blues in consecutive postseasons, still stand in the way.

But no matter how you slice it, the Blues upgraded in net Friday and are in position to close out their regular season on a high note -- which is all that matters from a fantasy standpoint.

The pressure is on for Miller and the Blues, but expect "Miller Time" in St. Louis to be a great time for fantasy owners.


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