The 2013 season did not start off well for the Buffalo Sabres and likely won't end ideally, either.
Entering competition on Thursday night six points back of a playoff spot with only eight games to go, it appears Buffalo will miss the postseason for a second consecutive year and the fourth time in six seasons.
Moving into the future, many have speculated the team will look to unload veteran talent in the hopes of quickly reshaping the floundering franchise.
Thomas Vanek will be entering the final year of a seven-year, $50 million contract that carries an annual average value of $7.1 million against the salary cap. In the days leading up to the trade deadline, Vanek stated he would meet with the team to discuss his future in the offseason, because he wasn't sure he would want to stick around for an extended rebuild.
What the projected timeline is for the rehabilitation of the Sabres isn't clear. However, the path they plan to take is.
Team president Ted Black held a lunch meeting with John Vogl of the Buffalo News on Wednesday and stated the organization will be taking a new approach to player development.
Instead of attempting to jump start the team by acquiring top-tier players via trade or free agency, the Sabres will focus on developing talent through the draft, via the Buffalo News:
"What we tried to do - and it didn't work - was add some pieces to that the year Terry bought the team, bring in some free agents, make some trades and hopefully get that team back to where it was," Black said. "It didn't work.
"You make a plan. If it doesn't work, you've got to be prepared to pivot and move in another direction. ... We do know where we are with building a team. In the new CBA, it's even more important than years past that you have to do it through the draft and the accumulation of young talent."
With this statement in mind, one has to wonder if rumored discussions to move Vanek or goaltender Ryan Miller might be resumed this summer.
If the Sabres truly want to use the draft as their primary source of player acquisitions, dealing Vanek and his expiring contract would likely generate some varying influx of draft pick compensation, if not the infusion of young prospects into the system.
The same could be said of Miller, who will be entering the final year of a five-year, $31.25 million contract next season.
Does it make sense to hold onto players of value, who potentially could walk as a free agents at the end of the year? Should they hold onto them and re-evaluate their positioning at the trade deadline?
That all depends on where Buffalo's management views the franchise's development.
It also could depend on who is managing the team. Some have speculated that 2013 could be Darcy Regier's last as the Sabres' general manager. Black didn't give any indication of whether a change is coming but did comment on Regier:
"My opinion of Darcy is based on my work history with him, which is two years. That's how I judge him. I think the opportunities that he's had, whether it be through free agency to the trade deadlines and the draft, I think he has done well in each of those instances.
"That doesn't mean that I think Darcy has built a championship team right now since we've bought the team. I think he has used those opportunities to improve us."