Ryan Miller was the focus in Buffalo Friday night, and he made the most of the spotlight in his 500th start as a member of the Sabres, stopping 30 saves en route to a 2-1 shootout victory in what felt a lot like a swansong.
But he wasn't the only veteran member of the Sabres' core that might have been playing his final game behind the swords. Thomas Vanek's future in Buffalo is up in the air, too. He would certainly fetch a pretty penny in a trade to expedite the Sabres' apparent rebuild.
Vanek knows it's a possibility. On Saturday, with the Sabres back at First Niagara Center cleaning out their lockers, and having their exit meetings and physicals, Vanek addressed the possibility that it might be time to go. From the Buffalo News:
"Let's be honest," Vanek said. "I'm not stupid. I know I have a year left and they can probably deal me for prospects, young guys, whatever else is out there. Yeah, I've thought about it. If it looks like it's a long rebuild, then it probably makes sense for both parties to move on."
Vanek wants a quick, trade-based rebuild as opposed to a build through the draft. But the latter scenario appears more likely.
"I don't know what the plan is," Vanek said. "If they're turning it over to the younger guys, it's a turnover. Or are they going to build around us again? It's all speculation at this point because you guys don't know and I don't know what's going to happen."
It's not exactly a formal trade request, but I think Vanek's desires, much like the Sabres' rebuild plans, are quite clear. Vanek is 29. If the idea is to keep him and build around him by acquiring young players and letting them mature, there's a good chance that he'll squander the prime of his career waiting for the rest of his team to catch up. What star wants that?
It certainly looks like that's what's happening. With Jason Pominville, Vanek's running mate, moved to Minnesota for young players and picks -- and with Sabres' owner Terry Pegula having recently scaled back expectations in the market -- it doesn't look like the Sabres are planning to take the express route back to contention.
So one can understand why Vanek might be hinting at a preference to move on.
As Vanek said, nobody knows what's going to happen in Buffalo, but based on what we do know, I think we can safely guess what Vanek would like to happen as well.
- Thomas Vanek