BUFFALO – No one on the Buffalo Sabres is untouchable.
With the Sabres in 13th place in the Eastern Conference heading into Saturday’s game against the Washington Capitals and the trade deadline on Wednesday, Buffalo general manager Darcy Regier indicated that the team will be looking to improve with a focus on the future and that any player could be involved in trade discussions.
Earlier in the day, Regier traded veteran defenseman and upcoming unrestricted free agent Jordan Leopold to the St. Louis Blues for a second-round and a conditional fifth-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft that could turn into a fourth-round if the Blues win a playoff round. Depending on how trade talks go over the next few days, the Sabres may not be done making moves.
The moves the Sabres may make could also impact what they do next summer when the contracts of captain Jason Pominville, leading scorer Thomas Vanek and goaltender Ryan Miller are set to expire. Each has one year left on his current deal.
Moving any one of the three before the trade deadline or before the start of next season would signal a big shift in the direction the organization is moving in. All three players were drafted and developed by the Sabres.
“We have to be open to everything, and I think the players recognize that as well,” Regier said. “You’re looking to get a group of top players that are going to play together, not on a one-year basis, but going forward [on a] multi-year basis. So that’s our focus and it could involve any players and I think the players are aware of that.”
The Anaheim Ducks were able to sign captain Ryan Getzlaf and Hart Trophy-winner Corey Perry to long-term extensions this season, the last year of their current deals. While Regier didn’t rule out the possibility of keeping Pominville, Vanek and Miller, he said that with the salary cap going down next season, it could prove to be difficult.
“It’ll all come down to the numbers,” Regier said. “You could look at Anaheim and they obviously signed their two big guys, but… there’s only so many of those guys you can have on your roster with the cap the way it is and you need top, quality young players to fill out because they’re both good and inexpensive.”
Regier said that he is open to trading both those veterans and any prospects in the pipeline if it would benefit the long-term goals of the organization. While it would be difficult for Regier to part with a younger player, he said a trade could possibly happen if it makes sense for the hockey club.
“I wouldn’t single out anyone but, I think if the focus is in the right position for us organizationally in an area we feel we still have a need, then we will,” Regier said.
He also said that he has spoken to every other GM in the League over the past week and noted that he gets asked about every player, including Miller.
“There continues to be a lot of speculation. Listen, where our hockey club is right now, we have to be open to listening to just about anything and everything and I am listening,” Regier said. “I have talked to [the other 29 GMs] over the last – if I say week, it certainly takes in all of them – and I’ll continue to try and figure out ways that we can be better, not just for this year, but more importantly, for the future.”
Trading Leopold now allows rookie defenseman Mark Pysyk to play more at the NHL level. Pysyk was called up on March 17 and has played in five games this season, averaging 15:36 of ice time per game.
“[Pysyk] is going to be a very good NHL player and this is a test period for him,” Regier said of the Sabres’ first-round pick (No. 23) from the 2010 NHL Draft. He’s handled it very well up to this point, so we’ll kind of ride it out right now,” Regier said.