Thomas Vanek is undeniably one of the most talented offensive players in the NHL, the sort that can carry a team on his back for stretches.
At 29, he’s someone the Buffalo Sabres can build around as they attempt to reverse course under a new general manager next season. (Unless Darcy Regier has another James Bond-level escape from execution up his sleeve.)
Or he’s the kind of player you ship out to hasten that reversal, with a package of players coming back the other way.
Could Vanek, who has one more year left on his considerable contract, move at the trade deadline?
“I think every year you think about that, but obviously this year probably more than any other year because of the position we’re in and one year left on my contract,” Vanek said. “Obviously, you think about it, but at the same time it’s part of the business. If it happens, it happens, and we’ll move on.”
But at 29 years old, would he even want to play through some kind of rebuild in Buffalo?
“To me, there’s different types of rebuild. There’s rebuilds like the Penguins and the Oilers did, consistently draft in the top five, or you go and get good players through trades, free agency and rebuild your team quicker in the summer. ... Rebuild is not a bad word, it’s just which direction you choose to go.”
No, rebuild’s a bad word in this case. It’s a terrible word. It’s the last thing anyone expected just under two years ago when Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino were brought in under the Terry Pegula “Starting today, the Buffalo Sabres' reason for existence will be to win a Stanley Cup” mandate.
In fairness to Terry, he didn’t tell us when they’d be winning that Cup.
But then again, he didn’t indicate that, within two years, the Sabres would be an Eastern Conference also-ran with an interim coach and players like Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller potentially on the block at the trade deadline, either.