This week's Wednesday Night Rivalry features a spirited matchup between the Buffalo Sabres and Boston Bruins (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2). But with Buffalo in the middle of a rebuild it appears that general manager Tim Murray will look to trade franchise goaltender Ryan Miller before the NHL Trade Deadline on March 5 at 3 p.m. ET.
Although Miller won't start against the Bruins after defeating the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday, the speculation surrounding him will be an intriguing subplot in this game.
Right now Murray has a real high price tag on Miller. I spoke to three NHL GMs yesterday, including one that would be in pursuit of him. They said frankly the price is just too high right now. Obviously Murray wants to maximize his return, I don't blame him. Miller has played at a high level this year. In spite of the team struggling, he's been world-class. He was a rock star in the win against the Hurricanes.
In terms of where he could end up, it could be the St. Louis Blues. I know there has been some talk about the Washington Capitals, but Washington would have to get very creative to get the dollars to work. And Braden Holtby has always played really well in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Would Miller be a good piece in D.C.? Sure. But probably not for that price on a Capitals team that needs to add more on defense.
There aren't a lot of other teams in play, although I think the Minnesota Wild could be an intriguing destination for Miller. He's familiar with several of those guys from the U.S. team, and has a comfort factor with Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Niklas Backstrom has battled injuries. Josh Harding was amazing at the start of the season, but he's had medical issues, and Darcy Kuemper has stepped in and been rock solid. But maybe they need somebody to help bridge the gap. Miller could be a good fit there.
For whoever is still with the Sabres after the trade deadline, it's a great opportunity. A lot of these guys are still trying to establish themselves in the NHL and trying to define what kind of player they are. So this is the playoffs for these guys. You have a heck of a coach in Ted Nolan and a great hockey guy in team president Pat LaFontaine.
Murray was an apprentice for a long time and someone I know very well from my time with the Florida Panthers and the New York Rangers. He's one of the best talent evaluators out there. As much as Timmy loves scouting, his most important evaluation right now is of his own players to see where they fit in the franchise.
One player who has been stepping up since Murray took over is forward Drew Stafford. There is no reason why Drew Stafford shouldn't score 20-25 goals every year. He's that talented, he's that skilled. He's been hot of late, with six goals and 11 points in his past eight games. He has scored 30 before. There's no reason he can't keep scoring and contribute to your offense every year.
For Boston, I think the Bruins just need to continue to play their style. When you look at their game overall, there is a lot of balance and commitment. To me, the balance allows them to play the way they want to play and not worry as much about matchups. That all starts with their great No. 1 forward line.
With Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Jarome Iginla, they do a lot of damage. Jarome is plus-25, Krejci is plus-25, Lucic is plus-21. That's a mismatch against almost any D pairing in the league.
Torey Krug has been amazing this year. He's a Calder candidate for how well he has played and there has been zero drop-off from his play in the playoffs last year. Who would have thought with Zdeno Chara there that Torey Krug would be the quarterback of the power play? That tells you everything you need to know.
Oh, and don't forget about Tuukka Rask. He's one of the top three goaltenders in the world right now, though Rask will rest Wednesday in favor of Chad Johnson.
Another key for Boston has been the blue line, which has been great despite Dennis Seidenberg's injury. They've been rotating numerous young defensemen, including Matt Bartkowski, Dougie Hamilton and Kevan Miller. All of those guys can skate. And Claude Julien has convinced his players about the value of defending. It's not different from what Joel Quenneville has done with the Chicago Blackhawks. That's why both these teams have won Stanley Cups and been to Stanley Cup Finals in the past few years.
On Boston's defense, you almost never see guys cheat and play out of position, so usually they play from the inside of the ice out. As basic as it sounds, not every team is willing to do that every night.
Entering the home stretch of an exciting NHL season, it will be interesting to see how the upstart Sabres come out against a rival Bruins team that is the picture of consistency.