Friday, February 28, 2014

A Goal in Goal?

With all of these trade pieces, one of which being star goaltender Ryan Miller, should the Sabres be pursuing a top-end goalie prospect this trade deadline? And if so, who might be of interest? On the first question, the Sabres have to be prepared for life without Ryan Miller. Enroth is, in my opinion, a capable starter for the rest of this season (unless we bring in a salary dump like Halak) and next if need be. The Sabres will be bad, but Enroth won't be their biggest area of weakness.

But what about a goalie for the short-term/long-term future. Enroth would, of course, have opportunity to play himself into that discussion. The Sabres also have 6 goalies in the system. Matt Hackett came over in the Pominville trade with a decent resume, but hasn't impressed in Rochester. Nathan Lieuwen has gotten nearly as many games as Hackett now and has looked better, but at this point I don't feel either goalie is a big piece of the puzzle for Buffalo. Deeper down in the system, however, are some interesting possibilities. The first name to mention is probably Linus Ullmark. He is currently playing in the 3rd best hockey league on the planet in Sweden and, despite being only 20 years old, is performing remarkably well. Another tender who has shown flashes is Andrey Makarov. This year he's playing in the ECHL, but not spectacularly. I still hold out hope that the 20 year old could turn into something. It may be time to give up on Connor Knapp. The 23 year old is big, but hasn't been able to shine brightly in either the AHL or ECHL. In the USHL, however, 19 year old Cal Petersen is having a great season for Waterloo.

Between Ullmark, Makarov, and Petersen, the Sabres might already have their goalie of the future, but these kids are a good distance from being ready for NHL action. The Sabres may be wise to bring in a goalie that is a bit more developed. There are plenty of options amongst potential trade partners. Anaheim's John Gibson is not older than the guys mentioned above, but he is a more polished higher-end prospect. LA's Martin Jones, at 24 years old, seems like a good fit age-wise and has made a real splash in the NHL this year. Without Quick the clear-cut number one netminder for the Kings, they may be willing to trade Jones to get a guy like Moulson. St. Louis prospect Jake Allen is another option. If the Blues acquire and re-sign Miller, they may be willing to let go of the 23 year old goalie. Though the Panthers don't look like a trade partner at this point, Jacob Markstrom is the type of big goalie Tim Murray says he likes. Perhaps a 3-team trade could be arranged.

All that to say, the Sabres have plenty of good options at the goaltender position both in the system and on the trade market. I would not be surprised at all if they add a very good 23-24 year old goalie at the deadline. If they do, I think there are plenty of options for life after Miller.

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