Inside the Flyers: Flyers should pursue Sabres' Vanek

Sabres left wing Thomas Vanek , who has 253 goals in 593 career games, can become an unrestricted free agent after this season. GARY WIEPERT / Associated Press
Sabres left wing Thomas Vanek , who has 253 goals in 593 career games, can become an unrestricted free agent after this season. GARY WIEPERT / Associated Press
Posted: October 18, 2013

The offensive-challenged Flyers need to add a sniper.

Badly.

Paging Thomas Vanek. Paging Thomas Vanek.

The Buffalo Sabres winger and the Flyers seem like a perfect match.

The Flyers have scored a total of 10 goals - their lowest seven-game total to begin a season in franchise history - and they are off to an unsightly 1-6 start.

Their general manager's fate may be hanging in the balance. Make a move that triggers a turnaround and Paul Holmgren's job could be secure. Miss the playoffs for the second straight year and . . .

Assistant GM Ron Hextall is waiting in the wings.

Which brings us back to Vanek, a 29-year-old right winger who scored 20 goals in 38 games last season and has 253 goals in 593 career games. He can become an unrestricted free agent after this season, and he has dropped broad hints that he does not want to remain with the Sabres if they have a long rebuilding plan.

And that's exactly what seems to be taking place.

The Sabres, like the Flyers, are off to an awful start and are having problems scoring.

So why would they deal Vanek?

Because if he's not going to re-sign with them after the season, they risk losing him and not getting anything in return.

Vanek, a rugged 6-foot-2, 207-pounder who is one of Buffalo's cornerstones, could bring the Sabres several prospects (Scott Laughton? Nick Cousins? Oliver Lauridsen?) and/or draft picks.

He would feel right at home with the Flyers because he was winger Michael Raffl's linemate with Austria at the 2013 IIHF World Championships.

"I've never seen anybody play like he does in front of the net," Raffl said after the Flyers practice Wednesday in Voorhees. "He's unbelievable."

It is worth noting that Buffalo general manager Darcy Regier is reportedly on the hot seat, so if Vanek isn't traded and he ends up signing elsewhere, the seat could get even hotter.

The Flyers didn't score much under Peter Laviolette in the first three games, and they haven't scored much since Craig Berube took over.

"I think we have to be patient and let [Berube] implement his system," said Peter Luukko, president of the Flyers' parent company, Comcast-Spectacor. "It makes no sense to panic. We still believe in our players."

The big guns aren't producing. Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Matt Read, Jake Voracek, Sean Couturier, and Scott Hartnell have yet to hit the back of the net. Hartnell and Vinny Lecavalier are sidelined with injuries.

The Flyers are counting on most of those players to score at least 20 goals. No one is saying that won't happen, just that they need to add a proven scorer. The sooner the better.

"Making a deal for the sake of making a deal is dangerous," Luukko said.

Yes, it would be risky to acquire Vanek - whose $7.1 million cap hit would cause the Flyers to make some auxiliary moves, like including Andrej Meszaros in the deal, to free cap space - because he could sign elsewhere after the season. The Flyers need to take that risk. Roll the dice and make re-signing him a priority. The cap is going up after the season, and the Flyers will have Kimmo Timonen ($6 million) and Meszaros ($4 million) coming off the books.

This team has dealt away lots of offense in recent years (Jeff Carter, James van Riemsdyk, Joffrey Lupul, Mike Richards) and now needs to add a proven scorer and a great leader.

Holmgren said he was talking with other general managers, and not just because his team is off to a horrid start.

"Whether we're 1-6 or 6-1, I wouldn't be doing due diligence if I wasn't looking around to try to improve the team," he said Wednesday.

He added that the Flyers already "did the drastic thing by making a coaching change."

Another drastic move is needed.

The general manager's job may depend on it.


scarchidi@phillynews.com

@BroadStBull

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