Under fire in his market for much of the past year, especially this month after a disastrous start to the season, Sabres GM Darcy Regier has been mostly praised around the league for his haul in the Thomas Vanek deal.
"I say this in all sincerity, Darcy’s record when it comes to selling assets when he’s in a tear-down mode is actually quite good," an NHL team executive told ESPN.com.
"You can argue with the rest of what he’s done there, but he’s good at those deals."
The executive pointed out what Regier got back in deals for Paul Gaustad, Robyn Regehr and Jason Pominville; then in Sunday's big trade, Regier got a first-round pick in 2014, a second-rounder in 2015 plus winger Matt Moulson for Vanek (both players pendings UFAs).
It’s a deal Regier had been working on since last summer with the Islanders.
The most surprising thing is seeing this kind of blockbuster this early in the season.
"I think there’s some different dynamics in play this year. I don’t know exactly what they are but my sense is that teams are more open to talk earlier than usual," Regier told ESPN.com Monday. "But having said that, Thomas is the only one that I had trade conversations with, with respect to our respective unrestricted free agents. So maybe it will get delayed and things will get pushed into the trade deadline, I don’t know."
In other words, despite all the talk about Ryan Miller's future -- the goaltender is also a UFA after the season -- it doesn’t sound like anything is imminent.
"No, all’s quiet right now," Regier said of trade talks for Miller.
The immediate read from most people is that Moulson will be flipped before the March 5 trade deadline. And given his contract status, you can see why people have jumped to that conclusion.
"I can tell you I’m not thinking that way with respect to how everyone else is thinking," Regier said. "I think that certainly would be premature. It’s wide-open, really. I can’t speak for Matt, obviously."
Moulson turns 30 on Friday, not old, but not the kind of younger player the Sabres are going to mostly re-build with either.
And does Moulson really want to hang around another rebuild after going through one in Long Island?
All of which leads one to think Regier would likely flip him later this season, even if the Sabres GM says that’s not why he dealt for him.
"The take is that he can help us right now," Regier said. "We didn’t want to do a deal that was just going to involve draft picks. We felt it was important to bring a player back that could contribute and help us. As it relays to his own status, we’ll see how it goes and he’ll see how it goes."
Meanwhile, Regier’s head coach has come under fire lately, not just because people are beginning to question whether he’s in over his head at this level, but also because of on-ice incidents involving John Scott and Patrick Kaleta, and the assertion that Ron Rolston needs to have better control of his team.
"I think that he has been treated unfairly by the media," responded Regier. "That isn’t his coaching style, I think he’s a very good coach, a very good teacher. He is exactly what we need right now with respect to focusing on teaching the younger players and the team as a whole. Unfortunately we’ve had some incidents that he’s being blamed for. I recognize that coaches are responsible behind the bench, I’m not denying that, but you can’t control everything. In that regard, I think it’s been very unfair."
To be clear, I followed up, regarding the impression around the league that Rolston’s on a short leash right now?
"I think he’s been very good for us," Regier responded.
These have been tough days in Buffalo, fans chanting for the GM to be fired, local media hammering Regier like never before.
How does the GM deal with it all?
"I try to stay focused on why we’re doing this," Regier said. "And the why is the important thing."
Championship teams, Regier continued, are built through the draft. And that’s what he’s focused on.
"Sometimes it’s not just the draft and first-round picks, sometimes it’s where you are in the first round," Regier said.
"It wasn’t our intention or desire nor did we think we’d be sitting where we are [last place]; but it still goes back to: Why are we doing this? We’re doing this to build a championship team. The rest of it, unfortunately, comes with that sometimes."
Despite the losses, Regier sees some positives on the ice.
"I do see signs, sometimes you have to look closely, but I do see signs of progress," he said. "The work ethic has improved. Guys are battling more. The young guys are making strides, albeit it’s never fast enough. And the reality is, we’re going to have to be patient, we’ve got four teenagers in the lineup. Conventional wisdom would suggest that may not be the prudent way to go, but we’re going to have a look at it and I’d say right now the young guys are holding their own, and more importantly, improving. We’ll just have to continue to monitor it."