Dec 23, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Islanders left wing Thomas Vanek (26) skates with the puck as Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith (2) falls to the ice in the third period at Joe Louis Arena. New York won 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
October 27th, 2013 would be the date the New York Islanders surprised the NHL.
On a relatively quiet Sunday evening, media outlets reported and duly confirmed that the New York Islanders had traded Matt Moulson, a 2014 first round pick and a 2015 second round pick, to the Buffalo Sabres for prized scorer Thomas Vanek.
Fast forward to the present, and Thomas Vanek has clearly settled in after a bit of an adjustment period. He’s done just what all hoped he’d do, generating offense and scoring goals, as he’s earned 28 points in 29 games with the Islanders, currently on a career-best 10 game point streak.
The Austrian forward has undoubtedly been a catalyst in jump-starting the Islanders scoring in the last few games, recording 10 points in the team’s last six games, five of which resulted in Islanders wins.
His offense has been more than reliable, and he’s stepped up and produced when the team has needed offensive surges.
‘Tis no mystery that Vanek has ties with Minnesota.
Regardless, if Vanek wants to ever win a Stanley Cup, it’s going to be with this team.
Will not happen this season, and it won’t happen as soon as the Islanders move to Brooklyn, either. It may take 4 or 5 seasons to build an elite team here, but it will come, optimism notwithstanding.
Vanek can put the puck in the net, but he also makes the players around him even that much more efficient.
Everyone loves Matt Moulson, and the reasons are plentiful and justified, but he hasn’t the ability to elevate the play of others in the manner Vanek does.
Ask anyone about Moulson during his tenure alongside John Tavares, and you’ll hear “Tavares brought out the best out of Moulson, but Moulson did not bring out the best of Tavares.”
Vanek has helped Kyle Okposo have the best season of his career, and for what it’s worth, Okposo never played well enough to be on the first line while Moulson was on Long Island.
Once Vanek came in, Okposo suddenly becomes the 2nd in points among American players, and is producing at a point-per-game rate.
Harsh it may be, but it’s apparent that Vanek suits the role of first line left wing better than Moulson does in terms of offense. He scores just as much as Moulson does, and he does a better job at improving any line he happens to be one simply by the reputation that precedes him.
The Islanders have what could be a major steal in the works here if they can resign him to a contract. And putting it into perspective, re-signing Thomas Vanek isn’t as far-fetched as it once seemed.
The financial aspect speaks for itself, as the Islanders currently have the NHL’s 3rd least expensive roster in the NHL. They’ve got a whopping $23,378,216 in free cap space according to Cap Geek, and with the salary cap going up this offseason, the Islanders have way more than enough money to give Thomas Vanek whatever salary he wants and still address other issues.
Now, the harder part here is convincing Vanek that the Islanders have a Stanley Cup in the makings within the next few years.
Unfortunately, the Islanders haven’t done much to impress Vanek since he’s arrived, as they still sit at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division and are 9 points out of a playoff spot.
However, the Islanders have arguably the best prospect pool in the NHL, and the big names still really haven’t scratched the surface yet.
If the Islanders can help Vanek see the true potential of this team that should come out in the next 3-5 seasons, then he in all likelihood will re-sign.
Vanek has certainly proven his worth here, and hopefully the Islanders’ front office does what they need to do in order to bring him back.
I want to know what you guys think, let me know in the comments or on twitter. And of course, thanks for reading.