Well, here’s an indisputable truth for you: the Sabres and Kings have been checking each other out a lot lately. The Sabres have had a scouting presence at Staples Center for most Kings games over the past couple of weeks, more so than in other Western Conference buildings [...]. L.A., along with Vancouver, Chicago, Dallas, Edmonton, Colorado, and five Eastern Conference teams, had scouts at FNC last night for Buffalo’s 3-1 win over the Rangers.
I’ve learned that the gentleman from the Kings is responsible for covering all of the Canadian teams plus the Sabres and Penguins. While there were numerous alternatives last night with games taking place involving Pittsburgh, Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto and Winnipeg, he was in Buffalo watching the Sabres.[On Monday,] I was asked by some readers and twitter followers which players are being discussed. [...] I won’t pretend to know more than the Dregers and LeBruns [...]. [A] few mainstream outlets have hinted that the Kings like Robyn Regehr, but it’s a safe bet that most contending teams like him.
Combine that with this:
General Mismanager Darcy Regier had the eighth-highest payroll and the 29th-best team in the NHL going into Tuesday’s game. The notion that he was shackled by the previous regime is a myth. Other teams are run better. [...] Coach Lindy Ruff has been fired. [...] Their defense has been terrible, their effort worse, their morale low. Not even a cagey veteran like Jochen Hecht can pull them from this hole.
And it could get worse, if that’s possible, before it gets better.[...] At some point, usually when their bank accounts are full but dreams are unfulfilled, players start searching for a title anywhere they can find one. [Ryan] Miller, Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville each have one full season on their contracts before they’re eligible for unrestricted free agency.
Miller will turn 33 this summer. Pominville turns 31 in November while Vanek turns 30 next January. They’re not the innocent, energetic kids who emerged during the 2005-06 season and climbed aboard a playoff ride to remember. All three have been superb in a miserable season. All three could help a playoff team.
It would be painful, but the Sabres should consider trading them in a lost season and maximize their return. It beats losing them for nothing or getting less back next season. [...]
It doesn’t bode well for Regier [...]. He has been slow with the trigger finger and misfired many times. His tardiness or outright refusal to address obvious situations has been a persistent problem [...]. [...]
Forget about whether the Sabres should keep [Miller, Pominville, Vanek, et al]. Why would they stay? All three said the right things [...] about wanting to win here, but there was a sense none of their hearts would be broken if they were traded. [...]
“It’s always in the back of your mind,” Vanek said. “Stay here or move on? At the end of the day, it’s the team’s decision. I haven’t heard from them. But, yeah, you think about different situations.”[...] The Sabres’ problem with Miller, Vanek and Pominville is that they’re the players most worth keeping and most worth trading. [...] Their trade value greatly depreciates next season because they’re in the final year of their contracts. Buffalo also could lose them for nothing if they don’t sign extensions. [Miller:] “Do we become a younger team or do we become a team that’s going to build and try to get this core group of guys a chance to move forward? Or are we not the core anymore? Who knows?”
Or are we not the core anymore. That’s brutal, and telling. So, possibilities:
- Thomas Vanek, LW, 29, 6’2″, 477 career points in 571 games.
- Robyn Regher, D, 32, 6’3″, stay-at-home defenseman, big body.
- Tyler Myers, D, 23, 6’8″, former rookie of the year, Lombardi could have had him, but picked Colten Teubert instead.
- Mikhail Grigorenko, C, 18, 6’3″, Buffalo’s #1 prospect.
- Sabres’ 1st round pick in 2013.
The Kings don’t have a 1st round pick this year, so nabbing Buffalo’s would be potentially huge, especially given how low Buffalo could potentially sink if they start selling. But that’s also the reason Buffalo won’t part with the pick. Also hard to trade your best prospect if you’re trying to sell “the future.” The rumor of the Kings being interested in Regher does sound like Lombardi. Would Tyler Myers be better for the Kings?
Thomas Vanek is the most attractive option in my opinion. But at what cost? Vanek is a UFA in 2014, with a cap hit of $7.1MM, so the Kings would have to send salary back. And really what would Buffalo want in return that the Kings would be willing to part with? I’m assuming Brown, Kopitar, Carter, Richards, Doughty, Voynov and Quick are off the table. I don’t know what Buffalo would want with Penner, Williams or Stoll. They don’t need Jonathan Bernier, either — unless they’re trading Ryan Miller in a separate deal elsewhere (if that’s the case, what about Vanek for Bernier and Penner? Eh, I bet the Sabres can do better than that, from a trading partner who still has high picks to trade).
If I had to guess — and I’m not good at it — I would think the price for Vanek (or Myers) will be too steep; maybe Regher could be had for one of the members of the Clifford, King, Nolan logjam.