The Vegas Golden Knights were another team facing a cap crunch and needing to ship out a contract or two. That feels amazing to say after two years in the league but here we are. Anyway, they traded Miller to Buffalo for a second-round pick in 2021 and a third-round pick in 2022.
Miller is coming off a decent production season with 29 points in 63 games while playing under 20 minutes a game. He has three years left on his current deal with a cap hit of $3.875M per season.
What Vegas gets
This is a pretty fascinating trade from the Vegas perspective. The right side of their defence now has Nate Schmidt, Nick Holden, and pending UFA Deryk Engelland. Schmidt is pretty good, Holden is fine, but they now need a third RD. Does that come internally? A small signing? A small trade? We’ll see.
Vegas still needs to sign Nikita Gusev, that sixth defenceman, and a backup goalie (Malcolm Subban or not), and they’re still currently over the cap with David Clarkson’s cap hit still around. There will be more moves to come from Vegas.
This does free up a lock on the PP2 job for either Schmidt or Theodore (my bet is Schmidt). It had been a three-headed monster at times over the last two seasons and this clarifies the pecking order a bit.
What Buffalo gets
- He ranks in the 60th percentile of possession exit and possession entry percentage among all defencemen over the last three years.
- He ranks just outside the 80th percentile in breaking up entries.
- He ranks in the 90th percentile of shot rate.
Now, we must say that he’s been playing third pair for most of his career so what he can do skating consistently on a top pair, or even second pair, isn’t a guarantee. What is for certain is that he’s certainly earned the opportunity to do it. For a visualization from Evolving Hockey, here is where he ranks in play-driving/play-prevention:
Back in mid-March, I wrote about how unlucky Miller had been this past season. I also wrote three years ago about how Miller’s only problem, back when he was in Boston, was usage. We’ve seen how good he can be when he’s given even the slightest chance; his 82-game pace in Vegas, where he was still playing consistently under 20 minutes a game, was 39 points. This guy is good.
What does Buffalo do now? They have Rasmus Ristolainen, Brandon Montour, Zach Bogosian, and now Miller all on the right side. It certainly feels like there will be another trade coming from the Sabres before the summer is out.
My initial thought is that Miller is going to come in on the second pair and second PP unit. The top unit belongs to Rasmus Dahlin now, as it will for the next 10 years. I’m assuming Ristolainen is traded, Montour plays with Dahlin, and Miller slides to the second pair. Second-pair minutes are a step up, but if he’s stuck on the second PP unit, it’ll be tough to rack up much in the way of points because they don't split their units like Vegas did (and I doubt Buffalo will now given the team composition). I won’t know for sure until my projections are done, but a 30-point season sounds about right.
Who this helps
Who this hurts