By John Vogl
Thomas Vanek is on his way to the New York Islanders.
The Sabres' perennial scoring leader has been dealt to New York in exchange for forward Matt Moulson, a first-round pick in 2014 and a second-round pick in 2015.
Moulson is a 29-year-old left winger who also has impressive scoring ability. He's eclipsed the 30-goal mark three times for the Islanders, topping out at 36 in 2011-12. He had 15 goals and 44 points in 47 games last season.
Moulson, like Vanek, is in the final year of his contract. He signed a three-year, $9.4 million deal with the Islanders prior to the 2011-12 season. His salary cap hit is $3.13 million, and his salary this season is $3.9 million.
"On one hand surprised by the trade but another not really," Moulson's agent, Wade Arnott, said in an email to The News after talking with his client. "Matt will now have the opportunity to choose were he wants to play whether that is Buffalo or elsewhere in free agency. He is heading to Buffalo with an open mind. No conversations yet but interested in hearing Sabres plans."
Vanek has been on the trade block since last season for the rebuilding Sabres. The 2003 first-round draft pick leaves as one of the best scorers in Buffalo history. The 29-year-old recorded 254 goals and 497 points in 598 games with the Sabres.
Vanek joins fellow playmaking Austrian Michael Grabner on Long Island.
"It was a deal that was off and on here for a while," Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier said in First Niagara Center. "It was something we feel we needed to do."
The Sabres have made it clear they intend to build through the draft. Based on their 2-10-1 record, they'll pick early next June, and they've now added the Islanders' selection.
"It was important to get first- and second-round picks," said Regier, who finalized the deal now rather than wait until the trade deadline because it took away the potential injury factor. "It’s more beneficial to have it now than later."
In addition to the two first-round picks next June, the Sabres have three second-round selections. They also have three second-rounders in 2015.
"You have to believe in what you’re doing," Regier said. “It’s exciting when you can get young players and see them grow. The hard part is when you don’t win games while they’re growing. It’s a long-term plan, and you’ve got to deal with the two."