It’s Vanek for Moulson as Islanders Make a Statement
Added by Joey Delgado on October 28, 2013.
Pierre Turgeon all over again?
The steady, unwavering hand of Islanders GM Garth Snow was caught making a sudden and exciting – albeit risky – move Sunday night as the Isles announced one of the biggest trades in team history with the acquisition of star forward Thomas Vanek.
Vanek, the lone scoring threat of the Buffalo Sabres, was acquired by the Islanders for Matt Moulson and two drafts picks (2014 1st rd, 2015 2nd rd). Both players are in the final years of their contracts and face free agency July 1.
“I was surprised … I thought this could be a possibility, but I didn’t think this was going to happen,” Moulson told ESPN’s Katie Strang. “I guess this is what happens in pro sports. I gotta move on.”
The Islanders traded Matt Moulson to the Buffalo Sabres. (Getty Images)
On the surface, the trade looks comparable. Both are 29-year-old left wingers capable of scoring 30-plus goals; each prolific on the power play and absolutely deadly around the net. They both wear No. 26.
The comparisons end there. Right there.
Vanek has scored his 254 career goals without an elite center and skated much of his career with a weak supporting cast while facing the opposition’s top defensive game-plans built specifically to control Vanek. Moulson has made his living being John Tavares’ finisher, scoring 124 goals since 2007.
Vanek is the most dynamic player to join the Islanders in a trade since Alexei Yashin came along in a draft-day deal back in 2001. This trade, however, may have more in common with the Turgeon-Pat LaFontaine deal of 1991. After all, it was the same two trade partners swapping highly productive players who played the same position and who were both in the primes of their respective careers.
Turgeon, of course, went on to score 58 goals and 132 points in the 1992-93 season, posting one of the most productive seasons ever by an Islander. He was the face of an exciting – although disappointingly brief – renaissance period for the team.
The hope for Islander fans is that this trade remains more like the ’91 deal and not the 2007 Ryan Smyth deadline deal. That was the last time Snow truly gambled, taking on a productive player with an expiring contract. In the end, Snow couldn’t keep Smyth and the Islanders eventually were forced to start the rebuild.
The reason to make the deal for Vanek was simply stated by Snow.
“We had opportunity to acquire an elite player,” Snow said. “And given where we we are right now (.500), you go for it.”
The risk for the Islanders is significant. The chemistry between Moulson and Tavares is not all that far off from what the Vancouver Canucks have seen over the years with Henrik and Daniel Sedin. Although it is true that Isles coach Jack Capuano has started separating the pair lately, the ability to go back and rejoin Moulson and Tavares for a little magic was always there.
Now, Tavares will have to prove he can make it happen without his longtime partner. And that he can work with a player who may possibly have more skill than Tavares does. Good, talented players don’t always mesh (see 1996 Blues: Wayne Gretzky; Brett Hull).
Other reasons for concern include the reported lack of communication between the Islanders and Vanek’s agent, according to Bob McKenzie of The Sports Network. And there are rumors that Vanek may have an eye on joining the Wild in Minnesota, where he spent two seasons playing college hockey before being drafted by the Sabres.
Looking on the positive side, the Islanders are pairing one of the best centers in the world with an absolutely gifted goal scorer who has put up numbers with little help. If it works, Vanek – who has breached the 40-goal barrier twice in his career – could become the first Islander to score 50 or more in 20 years.
You know … since that other fellow from Buffalo.