BY: Jeff Schneberk
I was out BBQing dinner last night when I looked at my iPhone and got this alert from the NHL app saying that the Buffalo Sabres have traded Thomas Vanek.
Given that Vanek was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, it looks like the Sabres had to do something with him, and apparently it didn’t include re-signing him
Matt Moulson, news to me, is also scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
That essentially means that both teams, but especially the Islanders now need to get Moulson signed so they don’t stand a chance of losing him at the end of the season.
That right there makes this deal make some sense right away, however not to all.
If this deal did not happen, chances are one of these 2 teams had a possibility of losing one of their top players; I would have been more worried for the Sabres because contract negotiations with Vanek supposedly went nowhere; from the NY perspective, who knows what could have happened, but I would guess that Vanek would have left Buffalo as soon as his contract allows him to.
The Islanders acquired the left wing from the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday night in exchange for left wing Matt Moulson, New York’s first-round pick in 2014 and a 2015 second-round pick.
Vanek, 29, has four goals and five assists in 13 games for the Sabres this season.
He was a first round draft pick of the Sabres in 2003 and has been known as one of the top players on the Sabres roster, asides from goaltender Ryan Miller, who was also in the final year of his contract in Buffalo and now all eyes will be on whatever happens to him in the next 6 months.
Vanek scored 254 goals for Buffalo and added 243 assists in 598 games, all with the Sabres. The 6-foot-3 217 pound forward has played in 36 Playoff games too and amassed 20 points, 15 of them were goals.
From the NY Islanders side of things, the Isles came off a 5-2 loss to the lowly Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night and GM Garth Snow obviously felt that something had to be done-fast. NY was looking at a record of 4-4-3 which is pretty bad considering that they had 2 of the NHL’s top young talents (obviously in Moulson) and John Tavares.
Vanek is scheduled to make his Islander debut tomorrow night against the New York Rangers of all teams and it will be his first home game with his new team.
When pressed for his reaction to the trade, GM Snow pointed his finger at the team’s 4-4-3 record and figures that speaks for itself, considering he feels he has a much better team that the numbers show.
“I can tell you I’m not happy with where we are record-wise. We’re better than this,” Snow told New York Newsday. “I wasn’t going to sit by and let games pass.”
Moulson, who is the same age as Vanek (29), was signed by the Islanders as an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2009. He has amassed three straight seasons of at least 30 goals and formed the ‘dynamic duo’ with fellow hot shot John Tavares. Moulson was 15-29-44 in 47 games last season during the lockout year. Moulson currently has nine points so far this season.
Where the Islanders are right now is third in the Metropolitan Division with a 4-4-3 record. They have goaltending concerns and their defense needs an upgrade, but they are a legitimate playoff contender and Vanek will help them, especially if he finds chemistry with John Tavares the way Moulson did.
However, Vanek is not coming to New York with a pre-arranged contract extension, something that would have made a lot of sense for the Islanders. Instead, Vanek’s agent, Steve Bartlett, told TSN’s Bob McKenzie, “We’ll take it day-by-day and focus on the short term for now, and see where we are at season’s end.”
The key words there are “season’s end.” They should scare Snow, the Islanders and their fans.
“I can tell you I’m not happy with where we are record-wise. We’re better than this,” Snow told Newsday. “I wasn’t going to sit by and let games pass.”
In addition, the Sabres have roughly four months to see if Moulson has chemistry with any of their centers, most notably Cody Hodgson, before deciding if they want to try to re-sign him or deal him before the trade deadline (March 5, 2014) for more picks.
Vanek and Moulson are both set to become unrestricted free agents next July. Neither is a lock to re-sign with their new teams, and that’s why this trade is such a coup for the Sabres and a risk for the Islanders. Buffalo is rebuilding, and stocking up on high draft picks is the best way to do that in the salary-cap world. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks can attest to that.