BUFFALO – The Sabres’ acquisition of defenseman Colin Miller from the Vegas Golden Knights for two draft picks Friday night will only fuel speculation more moves are coming soon.
Right-shot defenseman are coveted by NHL teams. The Sabres now possess five of them, a high number they must trim to create more balance on their defense pairs.
Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, of course, is a righty. After six seasons of losing in Buffalo, a change of scenery might benefit the Finn.
So Miller’s arrival could spell the end of Ristolainen’s frustrating tenure. Or perhaps Sabres general manager Jason Botterill wants Miller, 26, to help lighten Ristolainen’s workload.
There has long been a belief Ristolainen would be much more effective if he played fewer minutes and was put in better situations.
For Miller, barely a year removed from a career-best campaign, Botterill dished a second-round pick in 2021 and a fifth-round selection in 2022.
The Golden Knights have been shedding salaries to get under the salary cap, and Botterill was happy to help out. On Thursday, they dealt center Erik Haula to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Miller has three years left on a contract that carries a $3.875 million salary and cap hit.
The 6-foot-1, 196-pound Miller compiled three goals and 26 points in 65 games last season.
Like a lot of other Golden Knights, Miller enjoyed a huge season in 2017-18, compiling 10 goals and 41 points in 82 contests. He scored three goals and seven points during their run to the Stanley Cup final.
Miller, a fifth-round pick by the Los Angeles Kings in 2012, 151st overall, has scored 22 goals and 99 points in 250 career NHL outings.
He spent two seasons with the Boston Bruins before Vegas claimed him in the expansion draft in 2017.
In his two years as GM, Botterill has shown a penchant for overhauling the Sabres through trades instead of signings. Remember, free agency starts Monday.
Friday’s deal could just be the start for the Sabres, who have missed the playoffs eight straight seasons, the NHL’s longest streak.
Last year, Botterill made three notable trades – most notably, he dished center Ryan O’Reilly and brought in 40-goal winger Jeff Skinner – in just a five-week span.
In February, Botterill also acquired Brandon Montour, one of the Sabres’ right-handed defensemen.
After adding Miller, the Sabres have 17 players under contract for 2019-20 and $15,040,476 of cap space, according to capfriendly.com.
So Botterill likely has room to add more players from teams scrambling to get under the cap.