After Thomas Vanek scored 43 goals in the 2006-07 season, he signed a seven-year, $50 million offer sheet with the Edmonton Oilers. The Buffalo Sabres matched, and Vanek has rewarded them with a consistent high level of play.
Vanek had 40 goals in 2008-09, and has scored at least 25 goals in his first seven seasons. 2012-13 has been no different, as Vanek has ranked among the League leaders in goals and points all season.
But will Vanek keep filling the nets for the Sabres?
NHL.com examines the pros and cons to the Sabres making Vanek available to move prior to the April 3, 2013 NHL Trade Deadline:
Position: Left wing
Statistics: 27 games, 14 goals, 17 assists, 31 points
Salary status: Vanek is signed through the 2013-14 season, with a salary-cap hit of just over $7.14 million.
Keep him: Vanek's numbers so far this season, pro-rated over a regular 82-game season, would have him over 40 goals for the third time in eight NHL seasons. Vanek has been a consistent beacon of tremendous play while the Sabres have sunk in the Eastern Conference standings. However, much like the Montreal Canadiens of a season ago, the pieces are in place for a quick bounce-back to respectability for the Sabres. If that's going to happen, they'll need Vanek to continue performing at his usual stellar level.
Move him: Vanek has proven this season that he's one of the game's elite players. However, even his outstanding play hasn't kept the Sabres from sinking in the standings. Vanek likely is going to be looking for another big contract going into this summer, and the Sabres have to wonder if their best player is going to want to stick around past next season for a rebuilding project. If the Sabres let it be known that Vanek -- a 29-year-old four-time 30-goal scorer -- is available, the return could be stupendous. The Sabres could be staring at a long rebuilding project; the players, prospects and draft picks coming back in any Vanek deal could speed up the process in a major way.