I am hoping for the best for the Sabres as we finally enter into what could be a frantic off season in the NHL. Compliance buyouts and the cap going down could result in some surprising players hitting the free agent market or being available for trade.
The thing that makes for what could be a some strange days ahead is that the best I'm hoping for includes the Sabres trading away their two most established stars in an effort to kick start a rebuilding process.
The summer is supposed to be a time for hockey fans to dream about players their team could add, either via trade or the free agent market, to make them better for the season ahead. After years spent dreading the start of July due to the Sabres choosing to not be in the market for high priced UFA's, we were able to have some fun engaging in the idea of our team being a player in the summer.
That has lasted all of two years, at least for now. Last summer seems to have particularly soured the Sabres on free agency as a way to build, or at least significantly supplement their team. They've publicly admitted to being involved with the big names in free agency last year and striking out. They've not named names, but it doesn't take much to figure out that the Sabres seem to want you to know that they tried to lure Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, and Shane Doan only to strike out on all three.
Now it sounds very much to me like that experience along with the expiring contracts of Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek has lead the Sabres to the notion of rebuilding. I believe they do so reluctantly. Not because of a recognition that the players haven't been good enough and don't warrant being signed to new contracts, but rather because their inability to add to the team has soured the players on staying.
Whatever the reasoning, the best I can hope for now is for the Sabres to choose their path and get busy aggressively executing a plan. That's why I was excited earlier this week when it became apparent that the Flyers could be looking for a goaltender. The more teams looking to trade for Ryan Miller the better. The same goes for Vanek. These are not players I'm dying to trade because I've soured on them as Sabres. It's just that their contractual situations makes it better to trade them sooner rather than later. Darcy Regier told us prior to the trade deadline that the return in a trade usually decreases the farther along a player is on his existing contract.
Trading Miller and Vanek now would remove any possibility of the Sabres not being fully committed to rebuilding. I dive into the notion of rebuilding reluctantly, mostly because I don't have a lot of faith in the man at the wheel right now. But if you're going to do it, do it. Go big or go home.
Weird, going big this summer means getting rid of your best players. Strange days indeed.