UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- John Tavares' new linemate arrived at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Monday morning, excited and anxious to begin a new chapter with the New York Islanders.
Thomas Vanek, a two-time 40-goal scorer, was traded from the Buffalo Sabres to the Islanders on Sunday night in exchange for left wing Matt Moulson, a first-round pick at the 2014 NHL Draft and a second-round selection in 2015. The 29-year-old left wing will make his Islanders debut Tuesday night against the New York Rangers at the Coliseum.
VANEK TRADE COVERAGE
Sabres deal Vanek to Islanders
In a blockbuster move Sunday night, the Islanders acquired Thomas Vanek from the Sabres in exchange for Matt Moulson, New York's first-round draft pick in 2014 and a 2015 second-round selection. READ MORE ›
"It's been a long 14 hours, or whatever it is," Vanek told reporters after participating in his first practice with his new teammates. "It's obviously a shock. I'm not surprised. I knew it was going to happen sooner or later with the situation in Buffalo. Obviously when it does happen, initially you're shocked.
"I'm excited to come here. They have a great, young team, up-tempo style. I'm looking forward to it."
As expected, Islanders coach Jack Capuano has placed Vanek on the top line with Tavares and right wing Kyle Okposo. It's certainly a tremendous opportunity for Vanek, who has 254 goals and 243 assists in 598 games.
"I'm just happy to be here right now, taking it all in," Vanek said. "An opportunity like that doesn't come around much, so I'm going try to make the most of it."
"A tremendous player with the puck," Tavares said of Vanek. "Great patience and deception around the net. I think everyone saw how he started off, how hot he was last season and how much he can dominate a game. We're excited to have him. He's been in the League and proven himself. He has a great skill set."
Like Moulson, Vanek can become an unrestricted free agent after the season, which makes the deal a bit risky for the Islanders. General manager Garth Snow has yet to have any discussions with Vanek's agent to see if they're willing to negotiate a new contract during the season. Instead, Snow is simply focused on making it a smooth transition for Vanek, who has played his entire career with Buffalo.
"We haven't even had those conversations," Snow said. "Our focus has been to acquire Thomas and get him on a plane here, and get him situated and comfortable and get him ready for today's practice and tomorrow's game."
"I haven't gotten that far … I didn't sleep at all last night," Vanek said. "I'm going to catch some sleep first and get to know these guys and figure the rest out later."
Sunday marked the first time since 2007 that Snow has traded a first-round pick. Back then, the Islanders acquired Ryan Smyth, who was also set to become an unrestricted free agent. Smyth opted to sign that summer with the Colorado Avalanche, which ultimately marked the beginning of Snow's rebuild. New York has had eight first-round picks since 2008, including Tavares, the No. 1 selection in 2009.
But with more young players on the way in the near future (i.e. Ryan Strome, Griffin Reinhart) and the Islanders entering Tuesday with a record of 4-4-3, Snow pulled the trigger.
"I think with the prospect pool that we have, and we've done an excellent job drafting, that it probably lessened the burden of moving a first-round pick and a second-round pick moving forward," Snow said.
"We haven't been good enough. We're .500 and our expectations are to be higher in the standings than where we are. I think the message is, with or without this trade, we have to be more consistent and we have to be better. We need to take that next step, and we feel that Thomas can help us get there.
"Obviously it's very disappointing when you lose a player like Matt, not only as a player but as a person. He did a lot for the community here on Long Island. In that respect, it's always tough to see a player like Matt go out the door. But that being said, you have to give up something to get something, and we got an excellent player in return. He's going to help our hockey club."