The New York Islanders have acquired forward Thomas Vanek from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for winger Matt Moulson. In addition, the Islanders sent their first-round draft choice in 2014 and a second-round pick in 2015 to Buffalo to complete the deal.
Like Moulson, Vanek, 29, is in the final year of his present contract and is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
In 13 games with the Sabres this season, Vanek has four goals and nine points. In his career, Vanek has twice topped the 40-goal mark. Last year, the native of Vienna, Austria, scored 20 goals and 41 points in 38 games. In 598 career NHL games, Vanek has scored 254 goals and accumulated 497 points.
The Islanders say good-bye to Matt Moulson who had six goals and nine points in 11 games this season for the Isles. Moulson had three straight seasons with 30-or-more goals with the Islanders from 2009-10 through 2011-12. Moulson also had excellent chemistry with Isles’ captain John Tavares both on and off the ice.
Isles’ GM Garth Snow told Arthur Staple of Newsday, “I didn’t like the way we’d been playing. We’re better than our record indicates and we need to take the next step.”
This deal adds leadership to the Isles as Vanek was serving as co-captain of the Sabres this season and wore the “C” for Buffalo at all home games.
The trade also indicates a desire for the Islanders to win now. In this deal, unlike most trades in recent seasons, the Islanders traded away future draft picks instead of acquiring them. Obviously, in order for this trade to make sense, the Isles will need to re-sign Vanek to a long-term contract before he hits the open market this summer.
Vanek adds a different kind of dimension to the Isles’ attack. While Moulson specialized in scoring from the “dirty areas” close to the net on rebounds, tips and deflections, Vanek is a much more creative player, capable of making plays for Tavares or any other linemate. He is also dangerous in front of the net and has a strong and heavy shot.
While the deal does make the Isles more dangerous, it does not address their most pressing immediate need: for at least one defenseman who can steady the team in the absence of Lubomir Visnovsky and who can make the team stronger and more consistent in their own zone. Additional deals may be possible if Snow is indeed in “win now” mode.
This deal adds a dynamic offensive player to the Islanders’ lineup. But the price paid is high and Vanek will have to prove he is worth what the Isles gave up to get him.