The Roost reacts: Vanek shipped to the Island
blog by Ryan Nagelhout • October 28, 2013 @ 9:08am
Vanek’s departure will not surprise anyone but the return—as well as the timing—will turn a few heads. A first-round pick this summer and a second-rounder in 2015 is a solid move for Sabres general manager Darcy Regier.
Acquiring a proven goal-scorer in Matt Moulson is a definite bonus. Trading Vanek will not make the Sabres better this season, but you have to feel good about the move if you plan on rooting for this team in two or three years.
Vanek played in 13 games for the Sabres this season. With four goals and nine points you could say he underachieved a bit, but you can say a lot of things if you are a big dummy.
Vanek was clearly the best Sabres forward every time he was on the ice. I know writing Thomas Vanek hagiography is sort of my thing, but let’s allow for a paragraph about what makes Vanek special and why he will be missed. One graph. Promise. Let’s do it.
Thomas Vanek is good at things you often forget are important in hockey. He has great hands, is positionally strong and is always willing to stand in front and take a crosscheck for the mere chance at a deflection on net. He can finish in a variety of places on the ice, including in the shootout. He is always a threat to score, and his vision and creativity when passing the puck routinely made Sabres fans audibly gasp in awe.
Vanek deserves two paragraphs because screw anyone who can’t understand what makes him great. He was a streaky goal scorer that often carried a mediocre Sabres team for weeks at a time. He is the most important forward from an era that will mean little to Sabres history because the team never won anything ever, and that’s incredibly sad. He owned the Lightning, scared the hell out of division rivals who otherwise pushed this team around and grew into a superstar while a large portion of Sabres fans matured into adulthood. His abbreviated captaincy means nothing to his larger legacy, which hopefully is that of a talented forward who made the most of opportunities otherwise limited by ownership, management and coaching.
Three paragraphs. This is the last one, I swear. He was Atlas. The camel. One of the most important players in franchise history, made even more important because he didn’t just walk away. Hopefully his value has successfully been translated into Future Considerations. When favorite players become commodities, your best hope is that you can acquire another favorite player in the process. That player won’t be Matt Moulson, but hopefully he can put the puck in the net a few times and make the rest of this season bearable.
Seriously, Sabres fans, don’t go and spring for a Moulson jersey from the Sabres Store just yet. The soon-to-be-30-year-old is a pending UFA and likely in line for a nice contract given his trio of 30+ goal seasons on the Island. He will get a good deal next July, and is probably worth a few more draft picks at the trade deadline in February. What he does with the Sabres this season is unlikely to distract Regier from the real prize of picks in the entry draft—be it this one or the next.
This is another looming positive of the trade. It’s not just two draft picks and a player for Vanek. In the end it could be three or four picks. Maybe four picks and a prospect, depending on the market and just how badly someone needs a scorer.
The value of Thomas Vanek has not been determined on a Sunday night in October, but in the potential outlined in the deal Regier struck with the Islanders. It could be a great move for the franchise over the next decade. It could be a stellar move for both teams if Vanek can shine with the Islanders and the Sabres make the most of Moulson and their draft picks.
It doesn’t mean you can’t be sad about Vanek leaving, though. We are officially in the dying days of this era of Sabres hockey, perhaps unnamed yet clearly defined by the likes of Vanek and Pominville and Miller. Miller’s time is now definitely coming, too.
It will be a lost season full of tough results and weird press conferences. I am not excited about any of it, but it is what needs to happen to this franchise to see real growth. They are not finishing in 9th place this season. They also won’t win the Stanley Cup with Thomas Vanek.
If you ever believed that was possible, though, seeing Vanek leave Buffalo was bound to hurt.