Thomas Vanek traded to Islanders for Matt Moulson, picks

Vanek is a free agent at the end of this season. (USATSI)
Vanek is a free agent at the end of this season. (USATSI)

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The New York Islanders have acquired Thomas Vanek from the Buffalo Sabres in an early season blockbuster trade.

The trade, first reported by Arthur Staple of Newsday, is Vanek to Long Island in exchange for Matt Moulson, a first-round pick in 2014 and a second-rounder in 2015. The Sabres confirmed the deal on Sunday evening.

First reaction: Whoa!

Vanek is a very good player, one of the better scoring forwards you will find in the game. That said, that's a massive payment to get what is potentially 70 games out of Vanek. Remember, he's a free agent at the end of this season and there has been plenty of speculation that he wants to return to Minnesota where he played college hockey.

He has had at least 20 goals in each season of his NHL career, including last season's truncated campaign, with a career best of 40 in 2008-09. To imagine him playing alongside John Tavares for the remainder of the season is a lot of fun to think about.

But it's not like Moulson is a throw-in player in this deal. He's really enjoyed playing with Tavares in recent years, recording three straight 30-plus goal seasons (excluding the short season) and has been the Robin to Tavares' Batman. Like Vanek, he's a free agent at the end of the season.

So Moulson is already a heavy price to give up -- though the pessimism is building that he won't be anywhere near as productive away from Tavares in Buffalo -- and then you add in the two draft picks, including a first-rounder? This is a huge price for the Islanders to play, especially without a contract extension in place.

Regardless of it being a heavy price (which is undoubtedly is), there's little denying the Islanders are leaving this deal with the best player, but the question is how much better? Vanek is the superior player but is he an upgrade that's worth a first and a second over Moulson? Doesn't seem like it. Then there's the question of how will this deal look to the Islanders in a few years from now, especially if they are unable to re-sign Vanek? It's a risk, a big one for the Islanders.

From Buffalo's perspective, you have to love this deal. Vanek had already talked about possibly leaving town as it was and with the start the Sabres have had, the chances of him re-signing were lower and lower. Getting just the two high draft picks for Vanek in any deal would have been a strong return for GM Darcy Regier, getting a player like Moulson in the mix? Excellent deal for the Sabres, particularly for a player that was likely leaving anyway. Regier received a similarly strong return for Jason Pominville last season.

What's more, the Sabres could very well turn around and trade Moulson before the deadline for more assets. Regier has begun a rebuilding process in Buffalo and he's off to a heck of a start with what he's receiving for his big-time assets.

Now if you're Ryan Miller, are you just going ahead and packing your bags now?

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