NEW YORK — There’s plenty of tire kicking left to be done, and engines are known to rev once all the general managers gather on the NHL draft floor. Still, it appears Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek won’t be hitting the road this weekend.
Sabres GM Darcy Regier said an abundance of names are being tossed around for trades, and he’s gauging the marketplace for Buffalo’s top players. Based on what he’s heard, he expects Miller and Vanek to remain in Buffalo through the end of the draft today.
“Right now, I do, yes,” Regier told The Buffalo News on Saturday afternoon.
Miller’s agent, Mike Liut, concurred in regard to his client.
“I am not expecting anything to happen,” he said via email.
The draft, which starts at 3 p.m. in the New Jersey Devils’ arena, is one of the prime transaction dates on the hockey calendar. Despite all the names being mentioned — including Boston center Tyler Seguin and Vancouver goalies Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo — Regier says there’s no guarantee anyone will move.
“As you add names and the supply gets greater, I don’t know what that will do with the asking prices and whether teams will be able to get the asking price or whether there will be any kind of adjustment in the marketplace for players or for the acquisition of players,” Regier said. “It’s really still a bit of a moving target that hasn’t settled yet.”
Miller and Vanek are the top names on the Sabres’ shopping list because they are set to enter the final year of their contracts. Buffalo is not expected to contend for the Stanley Cup and there is no assurance the players will re-sign, so Regier cannot let them exit the organization next summer without getting assets in return.
“I entered this weekend recognizing that they both are in the last year of their contracts, and I have a responsibility to see what that means both with those players and also within the marketplace,” Regier said. “Unless you’re a highly competitive team, it’s very difficult to have players on your roster whose contracts are going to expire if you either choose not to or don’t have the ability to re-up them.
“Just to lose those assets, you try to get a sense of what the marketplace is like, and that’s a process that’s ongoing. I expect it will continue to move through the draft into maybe free agency and maybe beyond that. We’re actively keeping our finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the league, and we’ll have to just make our decision.”
The lack of trade activity extends to the draft. The Sabres are set to pick eighth and 16th overall in the first round.
“Right now, I expect that we will pick where we’re picking, and I say that only because there’s nothing that’s imminent or concrete,” Regier said. “But like I said, there are a lot of conversations, and they will continue right until the draft starts and even beyond that.”
Regier said recently that most trade talk centered around lesser-known players, but that took a dramatic shift Saturday. Several reports had Boston willing to move Seguin, the second overall pick in the 2010 draft. Vancouver GM Mike Gillis admitted to listening to offers for Schneider, his young goaltender who supplanted Luongo to create an unsustainable tandem.
“We’re listening to proposals,” Gillis said. “I’m not sure how it’s going to turn out, but we’re certainly listening.”
The Sabres have 10 picks in today’s draft, tied with Nashville, Winnipeg and Los Angeles for the most. In addition to the two first-round selections, they have a pair in the second (Nos. 38 and 52), three picks in the fifth round (129, 130 and 143) and one pick each in rounds three (69), six (159) and seven (189). They do not have a fourth-round pick.
Mike Gilbert remembers being lucky enough to watch Team USA’s triumph over Russia in the 1980 Olympics live on Canadian television. He’s going to be even more fortunate next year. He’ll be watching the 2014 Games live in Russia, and he’ll be part of them.
USA Hockey has named Gilbert as its media relations liaison for the Olympics in Sochi. The Sabres’ longtime vice president of public and community relations is the only person selected to join Dave Fischer, USA Hockey’s senior director of communications.
“It was a little humbling,” Gilbert said. “I was surprised and I was honored at the same time to be recognized that way.”