As if Buffalo Sabres fans haven't had enough to handle this season with the woeful product on the ice, they now have something more to lament about off the ice.
Yesterday, John Vogl of The Buffalo News reported that former Sabres general manager Darcy Regier had discussions with Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli in regard to a Thomas Vanek-Tyler Seguin swap at last year's draft.
While Vogl does go on to say that the reason for the deal not coming to fruition is not clear, this type of news has to leave a bad taste in many Sabres fans' mouths.
First, ignoring Seguin's fit with the Sabres in the short and long term, this is the exact type of deal that Sabres fans clamored for from Regier for years. The blockbuster. The one that would have the league buzzing for weeks.
Instead, Regier always stuck to his low-risk moves.
Regier was the king of turning established players into prospects and draft picks, usually a move that no one ever second-guesses. But eventually, a team in the Sabres' position needs to flip guys for "right now" players or guys that will make the team better from the onset, not three or four years later.
Did Regier make some player-for-player moves that helped the team throughout the years? Of course.
He brought in Danny Briere, Chris Drury, Steve Ott and J.P. Dumont during his time, but none of those guys, with the possible exception of Drury, were expected to play the roles they did for the Sabres during their tenures.
However, this point is not to diminish the effectiveness of the trades—it merely is to show that Regier was not one to make a splash when a splash was what was needed.
Coming back to the reported Vanek-Seguin deal, there are certainly a lot of factors at play with a deal like that, many of which were likely seen as an unknown last June.
Would Seguin be able to bounce back from the media lashing he was receiving in Boston, especially after a mediocre-at-best playoff performance? Would Vanek succeed on a team that did not necessarily foster offensive talent?
Those are surely two of the many questions that needed answers, or at least opinions, before as big a deal as this would have been could go down.
But looking at it purely with organizational fit in mind, this would have made a lot of sense, especially for the Sabres.
Vanek was on the last year of his deal and basically had one foot out the door. While many felt there was a chance of him re-signing, it was getting more and more unlikely by the day. He was a scoring winger on a team that wasn't going to be able to score.
Seguin, on the other hand, was about to start the first year of a six-year, $34.5 million deal signed before the lockout started in October 2012. He was coming off a postseason to forget, but he still finished third on the Bruins in scoring in 2012-13 and was 21 years old and a former second overall pick.
Basically, you trade a guy that doesn't want to re-sign for your future No. 1 center.
Instead, the deal was never made and Seguin was traded a few days later to the Dallas Stars along with Rich Peverley and Ryan Button for a package that featured Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith coming back to Boston. Vanek was traded in October to the New York Islanders for Matt Moulson, a first-round pick in 2014 (or 2015 if the Isles finish in the top 10 and decide to defer the pick to next year) and a second-round pick in 2015.
Since their respective trades, Seguin has found his stride with the Stars, leading them in points with 54 in 53 games and is currently in a four-way tie for 14th in the NHL with Joe Pavelski, Jonathan Toews and Taylor Hall. Vanek is third on the Isles in points with 38 in his 41 games there, but he has just reportedly turned down a "substantial" contract offer and will test free agency in July, according to Newsday's Arthur Staple (via to CBS Sports).
In the pursuit of fairness, a few points must be made.
First, Seguin's success, at least in terms of his scoring prowess, can be attributable in part to playing with Jamie Benn. Lindy Ruff may be a defensive-minded coach, but he has never shied away from putting his best forwards together (see Thomas Vanek and Danny Briere in Buffalo in 2006-07), and it has paid dividends for his young star.
Second, Regier did receive a "right now" player in return for Vanek in Moulson, along with the two high draft picks. The only questionable part of the move (besides the Islanders making it in the first place) was filling Vanek's spot with a guy that plays similarly to him but not quite at the same level. Like Vanek, Moulson will likely also be flipped at the deadline, as he also is in the last year of his deal.
Lastly, and probably most important to this discussion, is the fact that Vogl said he was not sure why the deal did not happen, and that makes Chiarelli walking away just as likely as Regier balking.
But who balked is not really the point because this was the type of deal that Regier had the reputation of being unable to make.
And it's the inability to make that kind of move that has the Sabres in the position they are in now.
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