The Buffalo Sabres are willing to retain salary in a trade of forward Thomas Vanek, according to Elliotte Friedman of CBC on Wednesday afternoon. Friedman tweeted that Buffalo has informed teams it is willing to eat a portion of Vanek's $7.1 million cap hit in the event the club gets a desirable return in any transaction.
Vanek is entering the final year of a seven-year, $50 million contract and will become an unrestricted free agent next summer. The 29-year-old forward has previously stated that he is interested in observing the situation in Buffalo before determining his interest level in signing an extension with the team. By most accounts -- including those of Buffalo management -- the team is headed toward an extended rebuild that is focused on developing through the draft.
Vanek has previously stated that he's not interested in participating in an extended rebuild.
This dynamic is the motivating factor behind exploring a trade. If Buffalo can't retain a player of value, such as Vanek, it makes little sense to allow the player to finish out the final year of his contract only to sign with a new team come July. Considering the Sabres acknowledgement of a restructuring of the franchise, asset collection becomes a valuable tool in expediting that process. Whether it's draft picks or young, inexpensive players, Vanek likely could fetch an appealing package that could help Buffalo build toward the future.
This is especially true if the Sabres are willing to help their trade partner by trimming down Vanek's cap total.
The Sabres face a similar situation with goaltender Ryan Miller, as he is entering the final year of his five-year, $31.25 million contract and will also be an unrestricted free agent next summer. While trade speculation persists, Friedman tweeted on Wednesday that he hasn't heard anything regarding Miller and the Sabres' willingness to retain salary.
However, Buffalo manager Darcy Regier provided media availability on Wednesday and stated that the trade window is currently closed on both Miller and Vanek, via The Buffalo News:
"It's closed right now," the GM said. "Once you get through the unrestricted market, there's a little bit of a secondary market. Then as you tail off in July, the lines go dead. The league, for whatever reason, really goes quiet.
"There's a business that goes on that most people don't know about or hear about, and there's a lot of speculation and rumors out there of things that may or may not have happened. We're approaching it from the standpoint of Ryan's here, Thomas is here, they're both in the last year of their deals like a lot of other players in the National Hockey League, and they're ready to go to work."
While the team might not have anything actively in the works, it doesn't mean progress hasn't been made or work isn't currently being done toward a future deal. Many speculated that Miller and Vanek could start 2013-14 with the Sabres only to be moved later in the year or, more specifically, at the trade deadline.
It obviously remains to be seen if that will be the case.