Daniel Briere can only shrug now about what might have been with the Buffalo Sabres.
With a little foresight, the Sabres, with their loaded roster, could have retained co-captains Chris Drury and Briere and landed four draft picks with two decisions.
Briere joined the "Tim Graham Show" on Sports Radio 1270 The Fan and looked back on his heartbreaking departure a decade ago. He also talked about his recently released autobiography, "Mister Playoffs," written in French and co-authored with Martin Leclerc.
You can listen to Wednesday's interview with Briere here:
Briere told us that if the Sabres simply had dropped their purported policy of not negotiating contracts in-season (they secretly hammered out a deal with Drury but didn't consummate it) and then declined to match the Edmonton Oilers' offer sheet to Thomas Vanek, Drury and Briere would have been back for less money than they spent on Vanek.
Instead, the Sabres fiddled around that offseason, tried to broker deals too close to the opening of free agency and watched their heart and soul leave.
The Sabres were rattled further when the Oilers signed Vanek to a seven-year, $50 million offer sheet. The reigning President's Trophy winners already had lost Briere and Drury and needed to match for PR reasons, if nothing else.
"One of the things that just did not make sense is the promise to re-sign Thomas Vanek if someone came out with an offer sheet," Briere said, "because for a cheaper price than it cost them to keep Thomas Vanek, they could've signed Chris and I and gotten four first-round picks from the Edmonton Oilers.
"Instead, they chose to keep one player, which — Thomas Vanek was a great player, a star player, no doubt about that. But when you look at the chance to have six players or one, I mean, it's an easy decision.
"I think they backed themselves into a tight spot, a tough corner by choosing Thomas Vanek over the other possibilities. ... That's where, from that point, it's tough to recover from a mistake like that."
Briere, who would have taken about $5 million a year, signed with the Philadelphia Flyers for $52 million over eight years. Drury went to the New York Rangers for $35.25 million over five years.
"I really assumed they would come to us together and offer us a package deal or something like that," Briere said. "But they didn't talk to Chris, I think, until two weeks until free agency, and they didn't talk to me until the last week before free agency.
"So at that point we said, 'Look, we're so close [to free agency beginning], we're going to check it out and see what's out there for us and see what happens.' "
The Sabres' stubborn negotiating policy later caused them to lose All-Star defenseman Brian Campbell; they were forced to trade him in his final season to the San Jose Sharks.
As Sabres fans continue to be reminded, building a winner is difficult, even when you have a star as a team's supposed nucleus. Sabres GM Darcy Regier had painstakingly assembled a Stanley Cup contender, and instead of strengthening it in July 2007, he watched it fall apart.
"It was painful to see," Briere said, "because at the time Buffalo and the Sabres were my team. I had been there the previous five years. To see that evaporate in front of your eyes — it was tough for me to take as a player. I'm sure I wasn't the only player that had a hard time seeing that.
"But I can't imagine what the fans were seeing, because the fans were the ones paying money to come in the building."
"The Tim Graham Show" airs from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays on Sports Radio 1270 The Fan. Listen to archived episodes and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.
Watch the Facebook Live stream with co-host Mike Rodak of ESPN.com, Buffalo News senior columnist Jerry Sullivan, gambling analyst Joel Staniszewski and "My Cause, My Cleats" artisan Polo Kerber also in studio:
00:00-23:15: Interview with Daniel Briere
27:55-39:00: Evaluating the Bills with Jerry Sullivan
44:00-57:15: Reaction to Rob Gronkowski suspension and what it means for NFL
1:02:30-1:20:30: Continued discussion of Gronkowski suspension
1:25:00-1:38:00: How to make a career out of sports gambling with Joel Staniszewski
1:44:30-1:57:15: Joel’s Week 15 NFL picks
Story topics: Daniel Briere