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Hockey This Week | Islanders This Week | By Tony Stabile | Islanders Ticket Deals

Isles Shake It Up, Acquire LW Thomas Vanek for Moulson, Picks

Islander fans have been begging GM Garth Snow to be aggressive and acquire talent. They also have been screaming for Charles Wang to spend money to improve the team, and Sunday night it happened. The Islanders acquired prize 2014 UFA LW Thomas Vanek from the Buffalo Sabres for fan favorite Matt Moulson, a 2014 1st round pick, and a 2015 2nd round pick. The trade on paper is a risk for the Islanders as both Moulson and Vanek are UFA’s this coming summer. A window to negotiate an extension with Vanek was not part of the deal. One would have to assume that the Islanders front office is banking on the lure of the talented Islanders roster, a rise to the top of the Eastern Conference, and the ability to play with superstar Center John Tavares, as enough for Vanek to bypass free agency and sign a long term deal.

Vanek is an outstanding hockey player, having scored at least 20 goals in all of his 8 NHL seasons, while securing two 40 goal and two 30 goal seasons among them. Vanek, who is considered an elite offensive player, also has 41 career game winning goals. He, like Moulson, doesn’t miss many games either – 37 exactly. You can talk about Vanek’s decline in goal production the past few seasons, but after the departure of Daniel Briere and then Derek Roy (both talented play makers), Vanek has had to make his own plays. With Tavares, that won’t be a problem.

The positives as I can see it…

  1. The old adage in hockey is when you make a trade, make sure you acquire the best player. Well, the Islanders did that here. Vanek gives Jack Capuano a 2nd elite scorer on his 1st line. With the 2nd line playing as well as it is, getting Tavares as talented a player as Vanek makes the Islanders instantly more dangerous offensively.
  2. By making this trade just 11 games into the season, it gives Vanek a full season on Long Island and plenty of time to adjust to life alongside John Tavares. If you are trying to convince an elite player that you want to come and play with an elite player, why not give him 70 games and a playoff run to do it.
  3. A late 1st round pick and a late 2nd round pick to give you a head start on signing an elite winger for your superstar center is worth the risk. Considering the amount of prospects the Islanders currently have, and the fact a few will need to be moved in order to shore up some holes on D and in the net, having Vanek in place makes the Islanders a legit contender to make a move come playoff time.
  4. The aggressiveness of Snow shows his team that anyone can be moved and he isn’t afraid to make a deal at any time to move his team forward. In year’s past, Snow would sit back and let his teams develop, that time is over. Snow considers his team a playoff team and today’s move shows the NHL that he’s serious.

The negatives….

  1. The contract situation is a concern for sure. If Vanek spurns the Islanders for say Minnesota (which has been rumored for some time now), will it bring back the ghosts of Ryan Smyth? This Islanders team is of course in a much different situation than the team Smyth was traded to. That being a team with a mostly veteran presence and not much else. Vanek finds himself on a team on the rise with a cupboard full of talented prospects and a solid future with the team’s upcoming move to Brooklyn.
  2. Moulson is beloved in the Islanders locker room. His presence, with the media, and his teammates will be missed. Moulson, who was signed by Snow as a minor league free agent 4 years ago, became a perennial 30 goal scorer and all around good guy for the team. His special relationship with Tavares (JT was Godfather to Moulson’s daughter) will be an interesting side plot. Though I’m sure that Moulson and Tavares always knew this was a possibility.

If you’re asking my opinion, this is a win for the Islanders. It shows its fans that the team will no longer stand for mediocrity. It shows the Eastern Conference that the Islanders offensive just got better. And it shows the underperforming Islander locker room that anyone in the room not wearing the “C” can be moved.

The 800 lb. gorilla in the room is: is Snow finished? I doubt it. You don’t make a move like this with other obvious holes on your team. Look for Snow to be watching the defense market very closely with rookie Matt Donovan struggling and with Matt Carkner looking more and more like a 7th defenseman. As for his goaltending, I have little doubt he’ll continue to monitor Ryan Miller and maybe even Brian Elliott as the season goes on. Garth has known for quite a while that his Achilles’ heel is between the pipes.

For Hockey This Week….I’m Tony Stabile

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Senior Editor, NHL columnist at Hockey This Week

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