Trading a star player is never easy for a team or its fanbase. The Buffalo Sabres and its fans learned this last trade deadline when captain Jason Pominville was shipped off to Minnesota for two prospects and two picks.
Now it's time to get through it with Thomas Vanek.
Vanek is one of the most prolific goal scorers in Sabres history, ranking fifth all time with 253 and 10th in points with 497. He has been a legitimate No. 1 center away from being a perennial 40-goal scorer for years.
Now he has just that.
Regardless of how big of a haul Vanek is for the Isles, the move is a decided risk for a young team that thrived on chemistry last season. Moulson and John Tavares would be amongst the league leaders in chemistry if it was able to be measured. Their chemistry was so well-regarded that many believed that Moulson's success was merely due to his playing with Tavares.
But now Isles general manager Garth Snow is figuratively rolling the dice by bringing in Vanek to play on Tavares' wing. Snow is banking on immediate chemistry between the two All-Stars on one hand. He's also hoping that the Islanders are able to impress Vanek enough to sign him to a long-term deal.
That notion is likely where the Sabres have come out on top in terms of the trade. The Moulson-Vanek parts of the swap will not be able to be truly evaluated for another couple of months, but the picks that came with Moulson have an immediate impact.
As it stands right now, the Sabres now have two first-round picks and three second-round picks in the 2014 draft. A realist sees Vanek's departure and asks the question, "When is Ryan Miller's time?" One can assume that a first-round pick for Miller is a likely return, if not more, so that would leave the Sabres with three first-round picks if that scenario plays out.
Even beyond that, Moulson is not a lock to re-sign with the Sabres. If you haven't noticed, they're not the best team right now and may have another few years to get back on solid ground. If the Sabres determine that Moulson isn't likely to re-sign, he may become a trade deadline commodity, and given past deadline prices, another first-round pick is not out of the question.
That means the Sabres could walk into the draft next year with four first-round selections. While this draft is not nearly as deep as last year's, there are a number of top-end players available, including Sam Reinhardt, a center playing with Kootenay of the WHL, and William Nylander, a center playing in a Swedish Pro League.
Given the Sabres' struggles early this season, a top-two pick seems to be more of an inevitability than a possibility. Getting one of Reinhardt or Nylander, plus three more first-round talents, will go a long way toward rebuilding this team.
Bringing this back into the analysis of the trade, even if Moulson leaves, the Sabres will get a potential lottery first-round pick for a player that was highly unlikely to re-sign. On the other hand, the Islanders have given up two high draft picks and a top-three forward for a guy that reportedly has his heart set on a return to Minnesota.
While it should not make a difference in his future with the team, Sabres GM Darcy Regier got a haul for a likely rental. This trade sets the Sabres up well for the future—words Sabres fans will have to get used to—but Regier should not be the one to create that future.
However, that's a story for another day.
Today, the Sabres got a guy that scored two goals in his debut and two high picks for a team legend that had a foot out the door already.
Could have been worse.
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