Thomas Vanek is now a New York Islander.
The longtime Buffalo Sabre was traded to the Islanders in exchange for Matt Moulson, the Islanders’ first-round pick in 2014, and second-round pick in 2015.
The Short-Term View
Vanek was off to a solid start this season, with four goals and five assists in 13 games with the Sabres. Since being drafted fifth overall in the incredible 2003 NHL Entry Draft, the 29-year-old Austrian has posted 254 goals and 243 assists in 598 games over parts of nine seasons, all with the Sabres.
At the start of the season, Vanek was named a co-captain for the Sabres along with Steve Ott, who will likely assume full captaincy.
Rumours have been swirling around Vanek for some time, as this is the final season of a seven-year, $50 million contract signed in the summer of 2007 after the Sabres matched an offer sheet made by the Edmonton Oilers.
About two weeks ago, Vanek’s name came up in trade talks with the Oilers as part of a package deal with goaltender Ryan Miller, but the trade didn’t happen.
Trading Vanek may only be the start of things to come for the Sabres, as they also have Miller’s expiring contract to address.
Let’s make one thing clear: General manager Darcy Regier didn’t enjoy trading a player of Thomas Vanek’s calibre, as he’s a two-time 40-goal scorer. He was far and away the best offensive weapon the Sabres had, so while I’m sure Regier didn’t like trading Vanek within the Eastern Conference, he did net a pretty good return.
Moulson is off to a good start this season, as he’s also registered nine points in 11 games. Of his six goals, five have come with the man advantage, which leads the National Hockey League.
Moulson came into his own in his four seasons on Long Island, hitting 30 goals in each season from 2009-10 to 2011-12. He was also nearly a point-per-game player in the shortened 2012-13 season, with 44 points in 47 games. The game he missed last season was the only one he didn’t play while with the Islanders, a testament to his durability.
However, we’ll soon find out whether he can maintain his production without having Islanders captain John Tavares as a linemate.
The Long-Term View
Based on the picks included in this trade, it’s clear the Sabres aren’t in “win now” mode. Getting the first-round selection from the Islanders gives the Sabres an opportunity to continue stocking their prospect cabinet. Assuming the Sabres don’t trade their own first-rounder, it would mark the third straight season the Sabres have had multiple selections in the first round.
In 2012, they selected Mikhail Grigorenko 12th overall, and they followed up two picks later by taking Zemgus Girgensons. In June, the Sabres took defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen with the eighth overall pick, and then added another blueliner in Nikita Zadorov with the 16th pick. All four players are in the NHL right now, though Zadorov could be returned to the London Knights after nine games.
According to MyNHLDraft.com’s first mock draft on October 18, the Sabres would have their original pick at second overall, along with New York’s 13th overall selection in the 2014 NHL Draft. The mock draft would see the Sabres picking Swedish prospects William Nylander and Adrian Kempe.
Time will tell how those picks shake out, but for now, the trade looks like a win-win for both sides. The idea of Vanek on Tavares’ wing has to have Islander fans drooling with anticipation, especially if Vanek signs an extension. Similar to Joe Thornton being traded to the Sharks in 2005, acquiring Vanek could give the Islanders a shot in the arm.
It certainly gives them another offensive threat.