AMHERST – Thomas Vanek spoke firmly. No, the high-scoring winger said, he hasn’t asked to be traded from the Buffalo Sabres. The widespread belief he wants out of town doesn’t bother him. But it’s simply not true.
“The media and people, they can make up their own assumptions as long as I know where I’m at and stuff and my family’s at. That’s fine,” Vanek said following an off-ice workout Wednesday morning. “At the end of the day, people will find out, either from me or the Sabres, just like I’m telling you right now, that’s not true. I’ve never asked for a trade, so I’m not surprised that I’m still here.”
Nonetheless, the Sabres have said Vanek and starting goalie Ryan Miller, the two franchise cornerstones whose contracts expire after the upcoming season, could be dealt.
After the Sabres dished several high-profile veterans late last season and began looking to the future, Vanek was the most outspoken, voicing some disappointment and saying he didn’t want to partake in a two- or three-year rebuild. But the 29-year-old also said he would wait and see before making another commitment to the Sabres, something he repeated Wednesday.
“Obviously, it’s a rebuilding team,” said Vanek, whose 20 goals and 41 points topped the Sabres last season. “There’s not too many veterans left. We still lost some good leadership, I think, depending on (if) Matt Ellis, Cody McCormick make the team. … Overall, it’s a young team, a lot of good, young players. So we’ll see again.
“For me, I didn’t ask to get traded. But I didn’t want to talk extension right now because I do want to see where this team is going and where it’s heading and what direction.”
Naturally, Vanek was cognizant he could get traded. But he didn’t let any speculation ruin his summer.
“I really didn’t think of it too much because I never asked for a trade, so it’s not like I was waiting for it to happen,” he said. “If it were going to happen, it’s part of the business and (I’d be) ready to move on.”
Now, with training camp starting shortly, does Vanek worry about trade rumors or contract talk hanging over him throughout his ninth season?
“To me, it’s part of the business,” he said. “I don’t need an extension to feel good or play good. To me, I’m happy to play in the NHL. I’m happy to have a job. You just make the most of it.”
The Sabres only added one notable veteran this summer, bringing back defenseman Henrik Tallinder, a move that surprised Vanek.
“Hank was a good character guy who’s going to help us,” he said. “He’s still a good player.”
Vanek would like more experience on the roster, even if Ellis and McCormick, NHL assets not long ago, return to the Sabres after finishing last year in Rochester.
“Those are two veteran guys back there that would probably be beneficial to our team, help us regroup, this young core,” Vanek said.
Coach Ron Rolston, whose interim tag was removed following the season, is leading that regroup. Vanek said he likes Rolston and “had a good relationship with him.”
“I think everyone got along with him,” Vanek said. “I thought he was very structured, very personable, very honest. I think he definitely deserved a chance to have a full year. Under the circumstances he came in it wasn’t easy, and then trading away his older guys didn’t probably help his cause. But I thought he handled it well. He prepared us well for every game.
“From that standpoint on, I look forward to working with him again.”
Vanek enjoyed a heck of a season in 2012-13.