The writing was apparently on the wall that the Buffalo Sabres were not going to re-sign top scorer Thomas Vanek in the offseason, so the club traded him to the New York Islanders for Matt Moulson, a first-round pick in 2014 and a second-rounder in 2015. The trade is the start of a long rebuild for the Sabres’ organization as the club also expects to unload goalie Ryan Miller and possibly captain Steve Ott.
Vanek is set to debut Tuesday when the Islanders host the city-rival New York Rangers. There is no word on whether Moulson will play for the Sabres in tonight’s game against the Dallas Stars.
Vanek had been long rumored to be traded from Buffalo (there’s been talk since last season, but nothing came of it.) The Austrian sniper has scored 40 goals twice and has been a true professional during his time in Western New York.
Moulson is a three-time 30-goal scorer during his time on Long Island. He also reaped the rewards of being on a line with his good friend John Tavares. The two undoubtedly had a fantastic chemistry that turned the Islanders into a playoff team last season.
The deal for the Sabres is the type of move that I thought General Manager Darcy Regier would try to make as I talked about in my Friday headlines. The team does need to try to stockpile high end draft picks to either get a good young player of package them for a star player. (Nail Yakupov, anyone?)
I found this interesting tweet from the Buffalo Sabres official Twitter page that shows the number of 1st and 2nd round picks that they have.
The Sabres also have options when it comes to Moulson, who is an unrestricted free agent at the of the season. They can try to give a four or five-year deal and try to make him the centerpiece of the team for a good while. If they can’t get him to sign the extension, they can try to trade him to somewhere else for more picks and/or young players. The biggest part is they got the draft picks.
Some Islanders fans think the trade for Vanek is a bit of a risk. Like Moulson, Vanek is also an unrestricted free agent. The Isles could pay the price of two draft picks and still lose him. (There’s always been the rumor that he wants to play in Minnesota because he went to college at the University of Minnesota and his wife is from there.) The Islanders hope that playing in the New York area and playing with Tavares will be too big of an opportunity to turn down.
I do like that the Isles made the deal early than the deadline. It will give Vanek time to get acclimated to playing with Tavares and could sway him to stay. There’s always a period of adjustment when a player comes to a new team. It’s very hard to expect a player to jump in at the deadline and make an instant splash.
This also proves that the Islanders are serious about making a big push for a deep playoff run. General Manager Garth Snow said he didn’t like the way the team was playing and wanted to shake things up. However, the Islanders had other more pressing needs on the defense after Lubomir Visnovsky and Brian Strait are both out with injuries and Evgeni Nabakov hasn’t played as well as he did last season.
The Sabres probably aren’t done wheeling and dealing, and will be a player in the races for the playoff spots. Even though they won’t make the playoffs, they’ll have a big say in what goes down.
Dan Mount is an NHL and college football writer for TJRSports.com. He is based out of Watertown, NY and is on Twitter @DanMountSports.