MILLER EYES FRESH START
Ryan Miller took extra time out on the ice after the last game of the 2012-13 season – his 500th in the NHL – to wave to cheering fans at First Niagara Center. The Buffalo Sabres goaltender knew there was a chance that it could be the last time the fans in Buffalo would be rooting for him.
The Sabres missed the playoffs last season and with Miller’s contract expiring at the end of this coming year, there was much speculation that he could be traded sooner rather than later.
General manager Darcy Regier said before the 2013 NHL Trade Deadline in March that he was looking at offers from other teams for every player in the organization and that he had been asked about Miller’s availability. Questions loomed throughout the summer.
But Miller’s back and ready for the start of a new season in Buffalo.
“I’m happy to be here obviously. I have a great connection with the city and I’ve enjoyed my time here, so I’m just looking forward to getting started and do it all over again,” Miller told the media during the first day of training camp at First Niagara Center on Wednesday.
Accoring to Miller, it was important for him to potentially say goodbye after that game in April because of that long-lasting connection. He’s been the Sabres’ starting goaltender since the start of the 2005-06 season.
“We’ve had ups and downs and I didn’t want to risk leaving town without the chance to at least wave a few times,” Miller said. “…Last year, it was really just about [how] I didn’t want to risk leaving town without people knowing how I felt. Hopefully they know how I feel. I try to be active in the community and I feel that’s a part of being in the community for a long time.”
Miller said neither he nor his agent asked for a trade. Miller has a limited no-trade clause in his contract and can submit a list of teams to which he does not want to be dealt to. However, he said they didn’t go into any deep discussion about a trade.
“We were just trying to see how things were going to play out. We obviously had to have a discussion about some possible teams. I have a limited no-trade agreement so we just knew there was a possibility of it out there,” Miller said. “There really wasn’t a need to go out and say anything because I didn’t know if that was the best thing for me anyways. We just wanted to let things kind of play out and look at the environment out there.”
There haven’t been any recent discussion between Miller’s camp and the Sabres about a contract extension. That doesn’t mean that Miller isn’t open to those talks. He said both sides are just waiting to see how things go during the season.
“The one thing I will say is that I do like the energy. I do like the attention to detail so far and I feel like this is an opportunity to get a group of players to really feel for each other and play for each other,” he said. “If we do it the right way, it can definitely be a good situation.”
The Sabres signed backup goaltender Jhonas Enroth to a two-year contract extension in June. Enroth was set to become a restricted free agent. They also acquired goaltender Matt Hackett as part of the trade that sent Jason Pominville to the Minnesota Wild in March.
Miller finished last season with a record of 17-17-5, a .915 save percentage and 2.81 goals against average. He played in all but eight games in 2012-13.
“I’m happy to be here. I feel like I’m in a good place,” he said. “I have a lot of goals this year that I want to accomplish and a lot of it revolves around me playing good hockey and that’s always the case every year. So I’m just trying to approach it that way. It’s another year to play NHL hockey and that’s a good thing.”
One of those goals is to play for Team USA in the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Miller backstopped the Americans to a silver medal during the 2010 games in Vancouver and earned Most Valuable Player honors.
However, the U.S. now has a deep pool of goaltenders to choose from including Miller, Jonathan Quick, Jimmy Howard, Cory Schneider and Craig Anderson. Miller knows he’s going to have to be playing well during the NHL season if he wants to be wearing the stars and stripes come February.
“If I want to start, if I want to make that team, I need to be playing at a high level,” he said.
Miller will get his opportunity for a fast start when the Sabres open the season on Oct. 2 in Detroit. The team’s first preseason game is on Sept. 15 in Montreal.