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Buffalo Sabres trade Thomas Vanek to Islanders for Matt Moulson, draft picks

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Thomas Vanek scored at least 20 goals in each of his eight NHL seasons, topping the 40-goal mark twice. (Mark LoMoglio/Icon SMI)

Thomas Vanek scored at least 20 goals in each of his eight NHL seasons, topping 40 twice. (Mark LoMoglio/Icon SMI)

By Allan Muir

According to Newsday’s Arthur Staple, the Sabres have already turned into sellers this season, trading Thomas Vanek to the Islanders, getting back forward Matt Moulson, a 2014 first-round pick, and a 2015 second-rounder.

First thoughts? I’m guessing the “Fire Darcy” chants have been silenced in Buffalo. A franchise that has been pilloried by its fans and the press since the start of the season for its utter ineptitude on the ice and in the front office just pulled off the sort of deal that will make the suffering yet to come so much more bearable.

They may have sewn a C on his chest earlier this month, but Vanek wasn’t going to re-sign with the Sabres when he hit free agency this summer. Not a chance. It’s one of the worst-kept secrets in hockey that Vanek is pining for a return to Minnesota next season, the state where he played his college hockey and where his good buddy, and former teammate, Jason Pominville currently skates. So removing the distraction and swapping him out for multiple assets makes sense.

Could Regier have gotten more if he waited to take advantage of jockeying teams closer to the deadline? Maybe…but ask Florida how well waiting to sell off Stephen Weiss worked out.

For now, Moulson nicely fills a top-six role for Buffalo. And if Regier can convince the impending UFA to sign on beyond this season he’ll be a good soldier, a player who can provide a buffer for the younger players as they mature into contending form.

But if he decides he doesn’t want to be a part of another rebuild after having suffered through one on Long Island for the past four seasons, no problem. When the trade deadline comes around, he’ll be worth a first rounder to a contender, probably with a sweetener on the side.

That would mean at least two firsts and a second in exchange for Vanek. For a franchise whose future only begins to come into focus three years from now, those are the kind of projectable assets that amount to a massive win.

But while the deal makes perfect sense for the Sabres, it’s hard to figure out what made Garth Snow pull the trigger.

Yes, the Isles are better in the short term, and with two playoff spots up for grabs in the sluggish Metropolitan division maybe that’s justification enough for a team that finally returned to the postseason in 2013 after five straight DNQs.

Vanek is a player capable of taking some of the load off of John Tavares and he’s a more gifted and versatile offensive weapon than Moulson. But the separation between the two wingers isn’t as great as you might think. Certainly not enough of an upgrade to justify parting with a first and a second rounder. Especially when multiple sources are reporting there’s not an extension in place for Vanek.

Snow does have 71 games to try to convince the sniper that the Isles are a viable long-term option for him, and that time frame allows New York’s GM a better chance to make his case than if Vanek had been acquired at the deadline. But it’s still a long shot.

Add in that Snow just traded away three significant assets and failed to address his most pressing need–a goaltender with some value both now and in the future–and this one seems almost impossible to justify from New York’s perspective.

  • Published On Oct 27, 2013
  • 4 comments
    ianlinross
    ianlinross

    Is Mad Mike still on the Island? Pulling strings?

    bl77
    bl77

    "Vanek is a player capable of taking some of the load off of John Tavares and he’s a more gifted and versatile offensive weapon than Moulson. But the separation between the two wingers isn’t as great as you might think. Certainly not enough of an upgrade to justify parting with a first and a second rounder."

    Not sure even where to begin here.  The separation between Vanek and Moulson is far greater than you apparently think.  Moulson is terrific at what he does, which is (A) putting in rebounds within 3-5 feet of the net, and (B) deflecting point shots.  And...that's it.  In every other aspect of hockey, he is between a ranking of subpar and atrocious.  He cannot create his own scoring opportunities.  And his chemistry with Tavares was waning over the last half of last season (the Islanders did not catch fire until their second line of Bailey-Nielsen-Okposo caught fire), and the pairing was split up during the playoffs and throughout much of the current season.

    Meanwhile, Thomas Vanek can undoubtedly create his own chances and then some.  He hasn't played with anyone remotely as good as Tavares in quite some time.  He quite simply is by far and away the most talented player John Tavares will have played with in JT's NHL career (and vice versa).

    I know the media just loves picking a winner and loser of any deal -- and if they can add another frame to their "Islander Follies" slideshow to add to that predetermined narrative, even better, right guys?!? -- but trades are made to benefit both teams, which I believe is what this deal accomplishes.  Are the Islanders taking on the greater risk?  Absolutely.  Is the potential reward worth it?  That's a capitalized ABSOLUTELY.  Their cost for an elite winger to pair with their elite center was a significantly inferior replacement, a mid-round first pick in a weak draft, and a 2015 second round pick.  The last two pieces would help either club in what, 2017?  Maybe?  Meanwhile, the Islanders get 71 games and eight months (not 15 games and three months, like a deadline deal would) to sign Vanek.  They didn't have to part with one of their core players (Nielsen, Bailey, Okposo, Hamonic, Grabner, MacDonald), nor one of their coveted prospects, of which they have plenty (Strome, Reinhart, Pulock, Nelson, de Haan, Donovan, Lee, Pedan).

    And while everyone loves the three-ring circus angle that the Islander do tend to exude, the fact is that the team has been able to make some surprising signings, of either young talent at very reasonable long-term deals (Tavares, Okposo, Hamonic, Bailey) or of players who kicked and screamed their way to the roster, only to find a reason to stick around (Nabokov, Visnovsky).  I would not be shocked if Vanek leaves in July, but I would also not be surprised one bit if the Islanders were able to resign him.  They certainly have the cap room, and with the hype the move to Brooklyn will give the club (possibly as soon as next October), that AHL feeling the franchise occasionally gives off will not be a concern any longer.

    Harry4naris
    Harry4naris

    moulson will not be worth a first rounder- he's now the player teams will game plan against against Buffalo, he's never been the center of attention on LI. Isles can recoup picks if things go back with Vanek. Buffalo's drafting isn't exactly sterling the last few years, Grigerenko, myers, etc- so lets not throw a parade for reiger yet

    SabresFail
    SabresFail

    "I’m guessing the “Fire Darcy” chants have been silenced in Buffalo."  

    And you would be wrong.  Vanek, Pomminville, Miller, Drury, Briere.  These were supposed to be our building blocks for Cup runs and our GM pissed it all away.   He should have been dumped when he blew the Briere/Drury deals. Darcy likes building and rebuilding teams, but he never gets us anywhere.