Niagara Gazette

April 2, 2013

Sabres: Open to deals as deadline looms

JOHN WAWROWThe Associated Press
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO, N.Y. — It was unusual seeing Sabres general manager Darcy Regier chatting outside Buffalo's locker room on Monday minus the cellphone that's been glued to his ear for much of the past week.

That led someone to wonder whether Regier's overworked phone had run out of juice.

"It's charged," he said, with a laugh.

It had better be.

Declining to rule anyone, including goalie Ryan Miller, as being untouchable on an underperforming roster, Regier is expected to be among the league's most sought executives in advance of the NHL's trading deadline Wednesday afternoon.

"Where our hockey club is right now, we have to be open to listening to just about anything and everything," Regier said as recently as Saturday, after he traded defenseman Jordan Leopold to St. Louis in exchange for two draft picks. "It could involve any player. And I think the players are aware of that."

They are, as defenseman Tyler Myers indicated before the team left town Monday to prepare for its game at Pittsburgh the following night.

"I don't think any guy would be surprised," Myers said. "I think we know there's action going on right now. And whether it's going to fall through or not is a matter of Darcy and the GMs."

Miller, leading scorer Thomas Vanek and captain Jason Pominville have all been mentioned in trade speculation. Struggling forward Drew Stafford, in the second year of a four-year $16 million contract, is on the trade block, as is veteran defenseman Robyn Regehr.

Regehr, in the final year of his contract, has waived his no-trade clause once already to allow Calgary to deal him to Buffalo two years ago. And he's aware he might be asked to approve another trade.

"That's all being worked out behind the scenes right now," Regehr said. "I'd have to see the situation. I can't say 'yes,' or 'no' right now about a hypothetical. There's 29 other teams. It would really depend on the situation."

The Sabres find themselves in a position of holding a trade-deadline fire sale because the high-priced roster Regier assembled has been a flop.

At 13-17-6, Buffalo sits 13th in the Eastern Conference with 12 games left. The team's in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for a second straight year and for the fourth time in six seasons.

Buffalo's already in transition after longtime coach Lindy Ruff was fired in February after a 6-10-1 start. And the switch failed to put a charge into a team that's 7-7-5 under interim coach Ron Rolston, and 0-2-2 in its past four.

The Sabres are having difficulty holding third-period leads, which they've squandered a league-worst 10 times, and have six times blown two-goal leads, according to STATS LLC.

Their special teams are struggling, too. Buffalo's power play ranks 29th, and has allowed an NHL-high six short-handed goals. The penalty-killing unit is hardly better, ranking in a tie for 27th.

Not at all close to what was expected of a team owner Terry Pegula vowed would become a bona fide contender after he purchased the Sabres a little more than two years ago. He then backed his words by committing nearly $140 million in salary to add talent and re-sign players before the 2011-12 season.

"We're really struggling coming up with a 60-minute effort, and it's been the case not only this year, but we struggled with it last year and also the year before," Myers said. "I'm definitely frustrated. I'm sure everyone else in the room is frustrated."

Pominville, who has a partial no-trade clause in his contract, said it's Regier's job to make an attempt to improve the team.

"It doesn't mean that everybody's going to be gone. But it means that he's got to listen," Pominville said. "Wayne Gretzky got traded, so anybody can get traded. It's part of his job to listen and make the best decisions."

NOTES: Vanek (upper body) practiced Monday, but Rolston called it "highly unlikely" he'll be ready to play against Pittsburgh. Vanek has missed three games. ... Regehr and C Steve Ott were held out of practice, and should be ready to play Tuesday. ... LW Ville Leino (upper body) was being evaluated after missing a 2-0 loss to Boston on Sunday.