Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller have to go. Preferably this summer before the clock starts ticking on the final year of their contracts.
They have to go not so much in my opinion because it fits the Sabres grand rebuilding plan. Rather, they have to go because they don't want to be here anymore.
That's the frustrating part about that circus of a news conference at the end of the season. I think the Sabres might have you believe that they're making the decisions about their future but I'm not buying. The Sabres are rebuilding because their best players are running out of road on their contracts and don't want to sign up for more of the same at this stage of their careers.
I would bet heavily that if the Sabres thought they could keep Vanek or Miller, or maybe even both, they'd be working feverishly on extensions for them and trying to figure out how to add pieces to take another run at it with them in the middle of it.
Instead we hear about suffering, the Penguins high draft picks and uncertain timelines. Great.
It has stood out to me over the past few months that whenever we talk about rebuilding, many fans include either Vanek or Miller in their plans. I get that. They're very good players who we've even seen be great at times. They've played their entire careers in Buffalo and if you consider yourself a fan of either guy, you feel the need to defend them from their critics one last time.
I admire them both greatly and would gladly have them on my favorite team if the circumstances were different. That's the problem. The circumstances are making the decisions here.
Once you acknowledge that the decision isn't entirely yours to make you start to understand the urgency. Then of course there is the matter of making the best deal you can. Darcy Regier has a reputation for driving a hard bargain and despite his team floundering in the standings, he seems to do well in trades. That will be tested here. Regier told us during the season that the potential return on a player diminishes the farther along he gets into his existing contract. I take that to mean you won't do as well moving Vanek and Miller as you did moving Jason Pominville. Wait into the season where eventually Vanek and Miller start to be viewed as rental players and the return really goes down.
Try looking at it like this. You want to sell your house. You're pretty sure it's worth $200,000. Houses in your neighborhood have been selling for that price and your house is comparable. So you put your house on the market and for whatever reason the best offer you get is $150,000. Well, you probably just stay put and decide now is not the time to sell your house.
Now imagine that you expected that 6 months from now the best offer you were going to get for your house was $100,000. Then in a year, you would lose your house for nothing. Kind of makes that $150,000 offer look pretty good,right?
This is where the Sabres are with Vanek and Miller. None of this would be happening if the team were better, and certainly these two players bear some responsibility for that. Some fans may even criticize them for wanting to leave.
Here's what I think. The Sabres can dial back the clock on this rebuilding plan all they want. The reason they're rebuilding at all is that their two best players want out.