Ryan Miller & Thomas Vanek: Should They Go?

The Buffalo Sabres will soon be confronting an offseason that has the potential to profoundly shape their future. The franchise is at a crossroads as they must decide whether or not to enter into a complete rebuilding face. The two biggest pieces to this puzzle are veterans Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller. The biggest question surrounding the Sabres is, should they deal away their two biggest stars?

Do Vanek And Miller want out?

Ryan MillerWGR 550 radio personality Chris Parker, better known as the Bulldog, believes the team needs to send Miller and Vanek packing. He argues that the long-time Sabres must go not for any strategic purposes, but because the two have mentally already checked out of Buffalo. Bulldog goes as far to say that the chose for Vanek and Miller to likely walk is what’s dictating the team’s strategy, “I think the Sabres might have you believe that they’re making the decisions about their future but I’m not buying.  The Sabres are rebuilding because their best players are running out of road on their contracts and don’t want to sign up for more of the same at this stage of their careers,” says Bulldog.

[Also: The Ryan Miller Sweepstakes – Who’s In?]

How Far is the team from Winning?

Lets take a slightly different look at the Sabres big choice and assume that it is management driving the decision rather than the players. The first question that should be asked is, as the roster stands now, can the team make a run at the Stanley Cup? After all, that is the proclaimed ultimate goal of the franchise. Most people would agree that the answer to that question is no. Naturally, the next question to ask would be, how much does the team need to become a true contender? Is it a few changes or is it more? Again, the majority of fans and hockey pundits would say they’re more than a few moves away from contending with the likes of the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Thomas Vanek
Thomas Vanek (Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)

With that being said, the team should go ahead and move both Miller and Vanek. It doesn’t make much sense to keep both players around to scrap for a possible seventh or eighth seed in the playoffs, only to get knocked out early, especially if it disrupts the team from building a championship-caliber roster. What’s sacrificing one season, if it means setting yourself up for a Stanley Cup run? Looking ahead it would make no sense to hang on to Vanek and Miller for the duration of the season, only to have them test free agency leaving the Sabres with nothing in return. It also wouldn’t make sense to hold on to them until the 2014 trade deadline and evaluate where the team is at then. The players must be traded this offseason to maximize what the Sabres will be getting in return.

Anyway you look at it, it will be an exciting offseason for the Sabres and their fans. In addition to Vanek and Miller, the Sabres have plenty of draft picks and young prospects so they have all the assets to be major players in the market. It will be interesting to see how GM Darcy Regier and company approach the summer.