With John Tavares out for the year, and a continually disappointing season keeping them far out of the playoff picture, the New York Islanders are about where they've been for the last several years, fighting it out at the bottom of the East.
Feeling the success of last season and hoping to improve on it, Islanders general manager Garth Snow made a huge risk in trading Matt Moulson and draft picks to Buffalo in exchange for Thomas Vanek. Moulson's chemistry with Tavares was something special, and Vanek has struggled to replicate it.
But Vanek's play hasn't been the problem for the Isles, who are struggling to keep the puck out of the net more than anything. The Islanders have offered Vanek a contract, but it looks more and more like he'll be moved at the deadline.
Vanek is the biggest name available
Every trade deadline there's one guy who's the big prize that all other teams are asking about, and this year that guy is Vanek. On an expiring contract, and with the ability to score 30 goals per season, Vanek is the perfect addition to a competitor looking to put themselves over the edge.
Vanek has averaged 34.4 goals every 82 games in his career, and although he's been slightly below that with the Islanders, the prevailing thought seems to be that he just doesn't mesh perfectly there.
Paid $6.4M in salary, Vanek is expensive to take on, but any team looking to acquire him is aided by Buffalo retaining some of his $7.14M cap hit, bringing it down to $5.75M, a far more digestible trade option. In fact, his lower salary may end up netting the Islanders more than what they paid the Sabres for him.
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Where does he go?
Rumours have indicated that Vanek wants to sign in Minnesota in the offseason, and although the Wild are very tight against the cap, it should be expected that they'll be in on Vanek at the deadline, even if they have to move salary out in order to fit him in.
Also interested in Vanek will be the constantly buying Pittsburgh Penguins, who are once again searching for a winger to play with Sidney Crosby, after they lost Pascal Dupuis for the rest of the season. Pittsburgh doesn't have the high level prospects the Islanders would be looking for though.
The Los Angeles Kings however, who are also looking for scoring do have the kinds of prospects Long Island wants. A goaltending prospect like Martin Jones might be very interesting to the Islanders, especially if paired with a draft pick or two.
Other pieces in play
Andrew MacDonald has caught some interest in trade talks, leading all Islanders players in ice time per game at 25:33, and at a cap hit of just $550K on an expiring contract, any team could fit him into their team financially.