BUFFALO – After trading captain Jason Pominville to the Minnesota Wild, general manager Darcy Regier said the Sabres’ reconstruction could take some time.
Slick winger Thomas Vanek recently said he “would probably look in the other direction” if the Sabres had a two- or three-year plan.
So, did Wednesday’s deal, coupled with earlier trades of defensemen Jordan Leopold and Robyn Regehr, change Vanek’s mind?
“Probably, I mean, obviously we gave up three good players in the last week, got a lot of picks in return,” Vanek said this afternoon after practicing inside the First Niagara Center. “Again, we’ll see.”
Vanek stressed he hasn’t spoken to management yet and likely won’t until after the season ends.
“It’s hard to say yes or no because no one has let me know what direction this is heading,” Vanek said.
Clearly, saying goodbye to Pominville was tough for Vanek and goalie Ryan Miller, who had spent their entire professional careers with the popular winger.
“I think he was shocked, too,” said Vanek, who drove Pominville to the airport this morning. “But he knew there was a chance it would happen. But I think at the same time, he’s excited to move on to a really good team out in the west.”
Miller called Wednesday “not a great day.”
“It’s tough to watch him go,” Miller said. “That’s what happens when you don’t perform in a season as a team. You get players that have value. Jason has a lot of value. Hopefully, he can do something special with his new team.”
Does Miller have the mindset the Sabres’ retooling – remember, Regier wouldn’t call it a “rebuild” – could take some time?
“I don’t know,” said Miller, who played 11 seasons with Pominville. “I’d have to talk to Darcy about it. It’s obviously something that hasn’t been planned out. I think Darcy is just trying to take into consideration all the options he had. I don’t know. I guess it’s hard to pass up the return you get when you get draft picks and prospects.
“I took Jason’s value pretty high organizationally. I don’t know, just see where everything falls and talk to Darcy about what his plan is.”
Miller said the 13th-place Sabres, who trail eighth-place New Jersey by five points, still have an opportunity.
“If you’re going to wallow and mope, cash in your cards, that’s not the situation you want,” he said. “It’s up for us to react in the right way.”
Interim Sabres coach Ron Rolston said he won’t name a new captain and will give winger Steve Ott an assistant captaincy with Vanek and Drew Stafford.
Vanek, out the last four games, said he felt better today and wouldn’t rule out a return Friday when the Sabres host Ottawa.