Brian Campbell knows the sideshow that awaits Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek. He lived through it.
Campbell was the last Sabres star to enter a season on the final year of his contract. Back in 2007-08, Buffalo was rebuilding after the stinging free-agent departures of Chris Drury and Daniel Briere. Folks wanted to know if Campbell was next, so he faced a daily barrage of questions about trades and contract extensions.
Campbell stood in front of the microphones every day in every city and provided updates. He took it in stride – until the trade deadline approached.
“I felt fine, then the last few games before that I think it weighed on my mind pretty heavily,” Campbell said by phone Thursday from Florida. “I didn’t play very good the last couple games because mentally I wasn’t in it. I was just kind of out of it, thinking about other things.
“Once the trade happened, I got to San Jose and I could pick back up again and keep going. I don’t think it was that bad, but then when it comes to crunch time … ”
Vanek and Miller are in position to face the same steady line of questioning. Buffalo’s top players are entering the final year of their contracts, and they’ve been in the trade spotlight all offseason.
Campbell would advise them to answer questions but refrain from spilling every detail.
“Whatever the circumstances are you can explain it that way and then you’re answering the questions,” he said. “The more you go into it, the more people read into things and talk about it and twist your words, I guess, a little bit. I think that’s probably how I would approach it if I had to do it again.”
Vanek is ready to take the stand-up blueprint into the tempest.
“I think it will be a daily thing, and it’ll probably get worse once camp starts,” Vanek said Thursday in First Niagara Center. “I think that’s part of the business. You can’t get frustrated or think about it. I take it day by day, and it’s part of the job.
“Eventually, you think you guys will get tired of asking the same questions because I really have nothing new to say. But if the media wants to ask I’m more than willing to give you guys the same answer every day.
“This is just a story that until something happens people want to know. To me, it’s not an issue.”
Miller, who arrived in Buffalo on Thursday, began facing the questions last month during a USA Hockey Olympic camp. He told reporters he hopes to avoid the type of seasonlong trade drama that plagued Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo last year.
“You’re there to do a job, but it is a business,” Miller told NHL.com at the camp. “If you’re going to get traded, hopefully it is just … you’re traded. It is not like a huge buildup or a huge debate or anything.
“It is a business, and I’m an asset. I just hope it is cut and dry if that’s the case. If they want me and feel like I’m the player they need, I’m just going to be there to do the job.”
One possible difference between Campbell and the current duo is the desire to remain in Buffalo. Campbell wanted an extension. Miller’s wish is unknown.
Vanek hasn’t closed the door to a deal, but he wants to wait until he sees how the Sabres fare with their rebuild under new coach Ron Rolston.
“I just want to see where it goes,” Vanek said. “I have that right, and I’m taking it. I don’t feel like I’m doing a disservice to anyone.
“It’s a new coaching staff, it’s new everything, a lot of new players. I like Ron. I think the youth is good that we have, but I don’t know our young guys how good they can be. Until you see it over a good span of games, I don’t think anyone’s going to know.”
No one knows how the drama will end, but everyone knows it will be discussed often.
“I’m not speaking for the other two on how they’re feeling about it or what they want to do, but I actually wanted to stay and get a deal done,” Campbell said. “It’s pretty easy if you don’t want to stay. Just go about your business and do your job and move on.”
Cody Hodgson was among the 16 players who joined Vanek on the ice Thursday. Hodgson hopes he’s still with them next week when training camp starts.
The Sabres’ second-leading scorer is without a contract just days away from the opening of the 2013-14 season.
The restricted free agent is coming off his entry-level deal and turned down Buffalo’s qualifying offer of $826,875.
“I like it here, and we’ll get something done,” Hodgson told The News.
The team and agent Ritch Winter, who had numerous squabbles when Winter represented Dominik Hasek, have been unable to find common ground.
“I don’t know how much it’s going to help if I comment on it now,” Hodgson said. “I’m just going to let them do their thing.”
The Sabres have a history of going down to the wire with their big-name RFAs. Drew Stafford signed on the second day of training camp in 2009, and Tyler Ennis signed hours before the lockout started last year.
The 23-year-old Hodgson recorded 15 goals and 34 points last year, trailing only the 41 put up by Vanek.
“Hopefully, we can get Cody signed because I thought we had some good chemistry at the end,” Vanek said. “But again, that’s the business side of it that his agent and the Sabres need to figure out. Hopefully, he’s here. If not, we’ll have to find somebody else just like I found him before.”