PITTSBURGH – It’s time to find out if the Buffalo Sabres are ready for an immediate, franchise-altering rebuild.
The NHL trade deadline is 3 p.m. today, and the Sabres have significant decisions to make. They could begin a major overhaul by trading captain Jason Pominville. They could continue shipping out dependable veterans for draft picks. They could decide the offseason will be a more viable time to revamp a disappointing team.
“I’m not going to worry about it,” goaltender Ryan Miller said Tuesday after an impressive 4-1 victory over Pittsburgh, “because you really don’t know. You really don’t have a say in anything. … It’s one of those things where the players are definitely just chess pieces, and the general manager is shuffling and moving them around.
“Some years are more pressing than others. This year, obviously, expectations are high and we haven’t lived up to them, but like I’ve said before there’s still time in this season. We can write our own story here. We’re just going to worry about hockey and see where it falls.”
Much of today’s focus will be on Pominville. The captain has a modified no-trade clause, and he confirmed he’s supplied General Manager Darcy Regier with a list of eight teams to which he cannot be traded.
That leaves 21 organizations available to acquire one of Buffalo’s core players.
“Darcy has a job to do, and for him to be able to do that in my case and in guys that have these kinds of lists, for him to be able to listen he needs to know,” Pominville said in CONSOL Energy Center. “He said it awhile ago that he was going to listen on everyone, so I think it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that this came up.
“By no means does it mean I’m gone or stuff like that. I think it’s just part of the process. It’s a step that he has to do and he has to deal with. But again, it could happen, but would I be completely shocked if it didn’t? Probably not.”
Pominville is in his 11th season in the organization, including his second as captain. The 30-year-old realizes the Sabres are looking toward the future. He’s just not sure whether he’ll be part of it.
“I understand the business of things,” said Pominville, who has one year left on his contract. “I understand Darcy has a job to do, and he’s trying to do his best to do what’s best for the team and the franchise.
“It’s a tough situation for everyone.”
Pominville had two assists as Buffalo snapped the Penguins’ 15-game winning streak, giving him 10 goals and 25 points. The right winger should generate interest among teams looking for scoring.
A source close to Pominville was asked if he expected the captain to be part of the Sabres after the deadline.
“I’d rather not answer that question,” he said.
Likewise, a source close to Miller has “no true sense” whether the goaltender will remain with the Sabres. Most of the chatter for netminders has centered on Calgary’s Miikka Kiprusoff, Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo and Los Angeles’ Jonathan Bernier.
Miller also has an eight-team, modified no-trade clause.
“I’m not going to comment on conversations I had with Darcy – real or imagined is what I’m going to go with, just so I can cover all the rumor-type stuff,” Miller said.
Because of their lackluster year and Regier’s focus on the future, the Sabres might contend with Dallas and San Jose for biggest fire sale. The Stars have shipped out Jaromir Jagr, former Sabres center Derek Roy and ex-captain Brenden Morrow. San Jose has dealt forward Ryane Clowe and defenseman Douglas Murray.
The Sabres sent Jordan Leopold to St. Louis and Robyn Regehr to Los Angeles.
“Darcy’s going to make some moves or made some moves that will hopefully benefit our future, but as a team we still show up to win every night and we still want to make the playoffs,” said defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, who signed a 10-year contract in June 2011. “I definitely had something better in mind and thought we would be up in the standings a lot, but it hasn’t turned out so far that way.
“I think the whole organization, starting with the ownership, is very committed to making it right and building a team that can be very successful. I still believe in that.”