Thomas Vanek, subject of trade rumors heading into the final season of his contract, said Wednesday he is planning to play 2013-14 with the Buffalo Sabres.
"As of right now, yeah," the forward told KSTP-TV in Minneapolis. "I haven't heard any differently. I'm preparing myself like I'm going back to Buffalo, so that?s what I'm doing."
The 2013-14 season will be the final one on his seven-year, $50 million contract, and he is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
Last month, Sabres general manager Darcy Regier said the team has had discussions about the futures of Vanek and goaltender Ryan Miller, whose contract also will expire after the season. The GM earlier said he would like to keep both players.
"I'm not flattered by [trade speculation] by any means," Vanek said when asked about possible interest from other teams. "I've enjoyed my time in Buffalo and I'm looking forward to going back. In this business you can't look into that stuff, or read the Internet or papers too much. If something happens, I'm sure my agent or the GM in Buffalo will call me and let me know where I'm going."
The Sabres finished 12th in the Eastern Conference last season, when Vanek led the team with 20 goals and 41 points in playing 38 games.
Nine of the 13 forwards and six of the eight defensemen currently on the Sabres' roster are younger than Vanek, who turns 30 in January. Buffalo had two first-round picks among its 11 choices at the 2013 NHL Draft.
"We're rebuilding, and I'm hoping we have the right pieces to accomplish something," Vanek said. "I'm not saying I'm old. I think at 29 I've still got many years left, but at the same time, you like to be on a team where you feel like going into camp you're contending.
"You can't guarantee to win a Cup, but right now in Buffalo we're rebuilding, which is not the best-case scenario for me. But at the same time, there's a lot of good young players and hopefully we pick the right ones."
Vanek, a former University of Minnesota player, was a Sabres teammate of Jason Pominville his entire eight-season career until Pominville was traded to the Minnesota Wild in April.
Vanek was asked about possible interest from the Wild either this season or afterward.
"I'm focused on going back to Buffalo, having a good year, and we'll see what the future holds," he said.
"I've never been a person to narrow my choices down. I play a year at a time. Just like when I picked Minnesota [for college], I went and saw other schools, and in the end this was the best fit for me. And I'm going again, I'm focused for this year, and we'll see what holds next year."