Despite a competitive conclusion to the 2013 season, the Sabres missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season and the fourth time in six years. With Vanek entering the final year of a seven-year, $50 million contract next season, many have speculated that Buffalo might look to deal the forward to help build for the future.
Vanek has previously stated that he's not interested in being part of an extended rebuild. With that in mind, he might not have any interest in negotiating a new contract with the Sabres.
He reiterated that sentiment on locker cleanout day on Saturday, via the Buffalo News:
"Let's be honest. I'm not stupid. I know I have a year left and they can probably deal me for prospects, young guys, whatever else is out there. Yeah, I've thought about it. If it looks like it's a long rebuild, then it probably makes sense for both parties to move on."
Vanek also stated that he had yet to speak to the organization's management team about what the future holds for the franchise. Questioning whether the club would build around youth or the established players on the roster (meaning himself and/or goaltender Ryan Miller), Vanek said there is no indication of what the organization is thinking about doing.
However, team president Ted Black stated in an interview with the Buffalo News at the start of April that the team would attempt to build and develop through the draft rather than trade or free agency. This leads one to believe that a quick fix isn't in the works in Buffalo. By Vanek's statements, it sounds as though the situation is no longer a fit for what he hopes to achieve with his career.
In addition, it appears Miller is also nearing the end of his tenure in Buffalo, as trade rumors picked up around the deadline and a report surfaced that he has put his Buffalo-area home up for sale. Also entering the final year of his contract, Miller will become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
As Vanek poignantly stated, he is a valuable asset that could fetch a favorable return for a franchise looking to develop younger players. The same is true with Miller. If the Sabres are looking to take this route in building their team, dealing these players is an effective way to manage expiring contracts.
While it will likely be frustrating in the early stages, the worst thing the franchise could do is delay the inevitable by retaining top-tier players that don't have interest in remaining with the team. Miller and Vanek carry a great deal of value and could help the Sabres lay the framework for the future.