October 28, 2013

Islanders Acquire Vanek from Sabres for Moulson, 2014 1st, 2015 2nd

Talk about a Sunday evening shocker.

In a strange twist of events, the Islanders have completed a trade to acquire Thomas Vanek from the Buffalo Sabres, in exchange for Matt Moulson, a 2014 1st round pick and a 2015 2nd round pick.

There is a lot to digest here, but lets try and break some of it down.

First, I feel the need to point out how much I appreciated Moulson, the player and person. He's always been a pleasure to speak with and was nothing but a class act. He's scored big goals for this team and it didn't hurt that he was close with John Tavares.

Anyone who's been watching this team knows that they've been struggling with 5-on-5 play, and had difficulties with puck possession and moving the puck up ice to get out of their own zone. This is an issue that Moulson was not helping out with, either.

I appreciate the back story on Moulson, and the fact that he was a fan favorite. But if anyone was truly looking to pay him $5.5 million per season, I don't know what to say. There are teams that will gladly pay this for a good supporting player. The Islanders did not plan to be one of them, and as a result Moulson was a goner.

It was clear last season that Moulson was not going to be in the teams long term plans. When Garth Snow was shopping around at the deadline for a winger and Brandon Saad's name popped up you knew that they were looking for a top line force. Further evidence came when Moulson was demoted from the first line during the playoffs, and then again for a good chunk of the early going of this season.

Moulson has been a powerplay threat for this team, with eight of his nine points this season coming on the man advantage. That's going to be a tough void to fill, but having spectacular special teams won't equate to much when you have too many players who are not complete players.

Isles add Vanek in blockbuster. Photo by C. Hessel
I'm seeing a lot of statements that I feel are wrong, mostly from people who do not watch either of these teams (or hockey altogether, or at least it's starting to seem that way). They are not the same players. These aren't even similar players, regardless of what the numbers on a paper are telling you.

If you ever wondered why, when the Isles first line was breaking into the offensive zone Tavares was draped by four opposing players it was because of his line mates. Tavares often would have no one to pass to, with Moulson either behind the play or already standing in front of the net, waiting for Tavares to somehow get the puck through four bodies and in his direction. For those of you who have been wondering why Tavares has struggled the way he did at times and why he was trying to do too much, this is why.

Vanek comes in as a guy who can help create plays entering the zone and can work from the half wall and down low. It's going to be quite a different look, especially with a player who can skate and has a competent two-way game. And by the way, he's put up some excellent numbers playing the last few years in Buffalo with not a heck of a lot (Derek Roy and Jason Pominville struggled in their final months before being dealt).

I think some people get hung up on the fact that there are two picks being included in this deal. I really won't say much about them, expect that if the Isles can't turn one or two of the many prospects they already have in the system from the last six years of rebuilding into something, then we were in trouble all along - and not because of this trade. And we'll get to see those guys develop as of now, as none of them have been included in this trade. I'm personally of the opinion that you deal with what you have in the here and now, not the potential of maybe drafting someone good with an 18th overall pick.

They got the top line winger they wanted for Tavares for the last four years in one move, and will now have 71 games to make noise with him and show him why it's worth it for him to resign.

If you're looking for my thought on this, I have nothing but confidence that the Isles will sign him - and it's a feeling I can't say I ever had before.

Flash back to last weekend, when on the show Sean and I talked about Art Staple's chat on Newsday, and how interesting it was that Vanek's name came up a few times just days after the Islanders Point Blank report surfaced that the Isles were actually being paid money to come to Brooklyn.

If this isn't the simplest of equations than I don't know what is. But this move is Brooklyn motivated, and as has already been mentioned all over the Internet today, it's no different than the Deron Williams trade (although the Nets didn't have an up and coming superstar on the level of Tavares when they made their move). The Islanders will offer Vanek a contract, and it'll be one of those seven or eight year specials with a high cap hit. But it'll be well worth it for a skilled player that brings the overall play of the team up with them being able to maintain possession and not turning as many pucks over.

This trade won't feel as good if the Isles don't extend Vanek, absolutely. But given that Tavares has seemed to have an effect on everyone who's spent extended time with him - Evgeni Nabokov and Lubomir Visnovski have mentioned Tavares as a factor in why they ultimate would end up returning to the club for multiple years - and it's easy to see why Isles fans can and should feel good about this trade.

In those chats, Staple did mention that the plan seemed to be having Grabner spend time with Vanek over in Sochi for the Olympics to try and sell him on the idea of signing with the Isles in the offseason. But somewhere along the line here, Snow realized the risk in waiting and wanted to get a season's head start on trying to sell the player on the long term future of playing with Tavares. So much for Grabner being in the organizations dog house, I guess.

If you want one thing to gripe on, you can find it in the fact that defense and goaltending remain the same for now. The Isles still have plenty of assets they can use to address one of these issues sooner rather than later. I think the defense needs some help before the goaltedning does. That strikes me as an offseason issue to tackle. The Islanders would have likely made the post season with Moulson, but the doubt creeps in when looking over the blueline. Adding Vanek does increase those chances (again, puck possession and being able to cycle down low like we haven't seen in the past five years) but it'll be very interesting to see what else happens here. Unfortunately, I get the sense the Isles are content with their defense as is.

I do not think Snow is done. We'll perhaps see one more move this year to shore up a problem area. But these will be steps in the right direction, that come at a very opportune time.

- Chris

1 comment:

Rob (Life time Islander fan) said...

Too many bad decisions being made. Can't believe they continue to blow the team up with bad deals.