Buffalo Sabres fans had little hope of reaching the playoffs this season, but that is gone now with the team’s trade of star forward Thomas Vanek that signaled a full move into rebuilding mode.
Going into this season, owner Terry Pegula and general manager Darcy Reiger have expressed a desire to grow the team through the draft, with a handful of top picks in last year’s draft and a roster infused with youth.
They now have even more after trading Thomas Vanek to the New York Islanders for a first-round pick next year and a second-round pick in 2015, along with forward Matt Moulson and his expiring contract. The Sabres gave up their most consistent goal scorer over the last several years, topping the 40-goal plateau twice.
Vanek also recorded 254 goals and 497 points in 98 games with the team, leaving him as one of the top scorers in team history.
With a 2-10-1 record, the Buffalo Sabres are already in a deep hole in the newly formed Atlantic Division, and seem likely to miss the playoffs for the third consecutive season.
The only question that remains is how deep the team wants the rebuilding process to go. There have been rumors that the team is interested in shipping goaltender Ryan Miller, but it’s unclear what the team could get in return. The Sabres will likely hold Miller until closer to the trade deadline before shopping the Vezina winner.
But that brings more troubles to the Buffalo Sabres. Backup Jhonas Enroth has shown flashes of strong play but is also plagued with inconsistency, and other goaltender prospects in the team’s pipeline would not be ready to step into an NHL starting role this season.
For Buffalo Sabres fans, the situation is frustrating given Pegula’s pledge upon buying the team in 2011 that he expected multiple Stanley Cup titles. Though the Sabres have a roster filled with young talent and a cadre of draft picks to continue building toward a bright future, it’s hard to imagine Stanley Cups anytime in the near future.