Shock waves reverberated through the state of New York on Sunday evening, as news spread that Thomas Vanek had been shipped from Buffalo to Long Island in exchange for Matt Moulson and a pair of picks.
While comment threads on bottom-feeding social media sites are filled with "NOOOOOOOO!" and "FIRE DARCY NOW!" posts, smart (and patient) Sabres fans know that this is just another piece of the puzzle that will build the team back toward the top of the Eastern Conference.
Like it or not, Vanek was going to be an unrestricted free agent at season's end. And fifth-best goal scorer in Sabres history or not, he was going to take his talents elsewhere for the 2014-15 season. The worst thing that a general manager can do is listen to fans' requests to romanticize such players, holding on to them and then seeing them slip away for nothing come July.
(A repeat of the Drury/Briere debacle of July 1, 2007, might end with the city burnt to the ground.)
With the 2014 first-round pick and the 2015 second-round pick acquired along with Moulson in Sunday night's deal, the Sabres now have nine picks in the first two rounds of the next two drafts.
#Sabres upcoming drafts: 2014: 1st -- (2) theirs & NYI. 2nd -- (3) theirs, MN & LA 2015 1st -- (1) their own. 2nd -- (3) their own, NYI, LA— Kevin Oklobzija (@kevinoDandC) October 28, 2013
Speculation that more high picks may be on the way began almost immediately, following the announcement of Sunday night's trade.
This is an amazing trade for the Sabres if they can deal Moulson at the deadline for firsts and/or seconds in next draft.— John Vogl (@BuffNewsVogl) October 28, 2013
... AND Matt Moulson will fetch ANOTHER 1st at the trade deadline as a rental. #Excellent— Trending Buffalo (@TrendingBuffalo) October 28, 2013
I rip Darcy A LOT and well deserved but this trade could huge depending if Moulson gets moved at deadline...Stay tuned. #Sabres— Matthew Barnaby (@MattBarnaby3636) October 28, 2013
And this doesn't even consider what picks and/or prospects could be acquired if Ryan Miller is moved before the trade deadline, allowing Jhonas Enroth to ascend to the starting position he has shown he can handle.
General manager Darcy Regier told fans in the offseason that there would be suffering.
A 2-10-1 start with little hope for improvement this season is definitely suffering. But the horizon—perhaps the distant horizon, but the horizon nonetheless—shows brightness.
A decade ago, the Pittsburgh Penguins strung together several years of top draft picks.
They took Ryan Whitney in 2002, Marc-Andre Fleury in 2003, Evgeni Malkin in 2004, Sidney Crosby in 2005 and Jordan Staal in 2006. In 2009, they were raising the Stanley Cup.
Certainly, that's an extreme case.
It takes an experienced and calculated hand to turn top picks into future on-ice success. Regier's draft history has been a little better than 50-50. But the more chances he gets at it, the better the hope for a hit.