BUFFALO – The Sabres hold four of the first 52 picks in this month’s deep NHL Entry Draft, including the eighth and 16th selections. They also have starting goalie Ryan Miller and ace scorer Thomas Vanek, two stars with a year left on their contracts, dangling.
Still, despite a slew of assets, Sabres general manager Darcy Regier said today securing one of the top three selections – future stars Jonathan Drouin, Seth Jones and Nathan MacKinnon are likely to get picked – will probably be “impossible.”
“I would characterize the draft and the ability to primarily to move in the draft, to move up into those top spots, will be extremely impossible if not impossible given the conversations I’ve had as recent as (Wednesday),” Regier, just back from the GM meetings in Boston at the Stanley Cup final, said inside the First Niagara Center.
The Sabres will keep trying, however.
“We’re exploring all the options,” Regier said. “We’ll continue to try to move up. But it appears now teams are getting more locked into keeping the pick and making the selection at that place.”
Meanwhile, Regier said he recently spoke to Miller’s agent, Mike Liut, and plans to speak with Vanek’s agent next week. He also plans to chat with the players soon.
With the Sabres in a rebuilding mode, the two veterans could get dished. Before the season ended, Miller sounded like he knew he would be dealt. Vanek has stated a desire to move on if the rebuilding takes too long.
“Ideally, I would like to keep them here, yes, both of them,” Regier said. “But, again, we have to look at it in the context of when they become unrestricted, whether or not we have the ability to do deals with them and then the cost of those deals if we do.”
Regier said the players are “exploring their options as well.”
“Part of that’s predicated on what we do,” Regier said.
Regier added both players haven’t closed the door on a contract extension in “absolute terms.”
In other news, Regier said the Sabres don’t have any plans to buyout winger Ville Leino or any player right now. Leino, who struggled mightily in 2011-12 and battled hip problems this season, recently underwent a procedure and is recovering well, Regier said.
Teams are allowed two compliance buyouts to get under the lower salary cap next season.
Regier also said coach Ron Rolston is working on hiring two new assistants. The team fired Kevyn Adams and James Patrick last month.
“Ron is continuing to work on it, interview, had a couple of candidates in Monday and Tuesday, and is really doing the work to get the right decision and is taking his time,” Regier said. “Ron originally was set on a couple of individuals who decided to stay where they were. They were in very good situations, in both cases head coaching situations, and wanted to remain in that position.”