The Buffalo Sabres have dealt Thomas Vanek to the New York Islanders in exchange for Matt Moulson, a first round pick in 2014 and a second round pick in 2015. The move comes as the Sabres are sputtering in the Atlantic Division and amidst persisting trade rumors surrounding several players on the Buffalo roster.
The trade, as confirmed by Newsday, is a fascinating development for both teams and removes arguably the best forward from the trade block. At this time the New York Islanders still need to reach a contract extension with Vanek who becomes a UFA at the end of the year.
Talk about a surprising trade. We all expected Vanek would be moved sooner than later, but it's doubtful any analyst or expert has the Isles as his destination. Reportedly the two sides did not engage in any negotiations prior to the actual trade.
Vanek is a big acquisition for the Islanders and they paid dearly for him. However, the move is a bit puzzling. So far in 2013-14 the Islanders have been solid offensively scoring an average of 3.09 goals per contest (10th in the NHL). The big areas of weakness for the Islanders are defensively and between the pipes. The Isles currently allow an average of 3.09 goals per contest (24th in the NHL).
Is Vanek a big upgrade for the Islanders? Definitely, but there are other areas the team could have (and should have) addressed first. The Islanders need to retain Vanek and sign him to a new contract. Though the Isles will enjoy his services for a majority of 2013-14, he's an expensive rental. There's no telling whether Vanek will stay or opt for a new team and that's what makes this trade a risky one.
What about Buffalo? Is this return in line with what they need for a massive overhaul? Most likely. That's not really an answer, but you can't really forecast two picks this far out. All things considered the Sabres probably maximized their return considering the entire NHL knew Vanek was on his way out of Buffalo. Moulson is a nice winger (233 points in 333 games), but the Sabres will need to use their two new picks wisely in order for this trade to pay off and to get their franchise back on track.
We now turn our attention to Ryan Miller…