|Could Vanek be the next superstar on Long Island?|
Keeping to a strict budget, the Islanders have managed ways to accumulate enough talent to build a playoff team. Keeping to the team's salary limits, the Islanders have found a way to garner one of the deepest offensive units in recent NHL memory. Playing by their own rules has also given the team the flexibility to add pieces that would not fit under other teams' current cap crunches, which is why Elliotte Friedman was able to get Islanders Country's mouths watering when he Tweeted out Buffalo's willingness to keep some of star-winger Thomas Vanek's salary if the right deal came along.
Vanek and the Islanders have been two names melded together on the rumor mill over recent months.. Buffalo's star has made it clear that he wants no part of any contract discussions until he sees the current direction of the team - a sure sign that he will likely be moved. The Islanders have the salary space and the pieces needed to acquire Vanek. Of course, any big name that seems to be on its way out of its current situation (see: Bobby Ryan) has become a talking point for Isles fans, but the recent "developments" regarding the Sabres and Vanek seems like the opportunity the Islanders have been waiting for.
Whether they like it or not, the Sabres are entering a rebuilding phase. Nothing has been set in stone, but with Vanek and franchise goaltender Ryan Miller only one season from hitting unrestricted free agency and the Sabres facing a daunting season ahead, a fire-sale may be the only way to go.
The key here, however, isn't that Vanek may be available - plenty of stars, especially pending free agents have been passed on by the Islanders - but Buffalo's willingness to hold on to a portion of Vanek's salary could have the Islanders standing outside of First Niagara Center with a list of prospects for Buffalo to choose from.
Think about it. The Islanders have been selective on where they spend their money. While they have certainly had the cap space over the years to add players, the team's largest "expenses" have usually come from inflated cap hits due to high bonuses - actual money that usually wasn't going to be spent in the first place. With Vanek, the Islanders would certainly have to pay up, but his $7.1M cap hit would translate could potentially translate to $4M if Buffalo agreed on keeping close to half of his salary. For the Islanders, that's a bargain - a savings of nearly $2.5M in actual salary - and Garth Snow is the best bargain-hunter in the entire league.
Now, of course a deal would have to make sense for both teams. It's not as simple as writing down a trade proposal, pressing send, and saying "SNOW SHOULD HAVE GOT VANEK!" Do we know what Buffalo's asking for? I'm sure Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome are off-limits, but would Buffalo be willing to take Anders Lee instead? Again, who knows.
The addition of Vanek would certainly give the Islanders a boost to an already dominant offense, though. It would give John Tavares a star on his wing for the 2013-14 season, and for even longer if they could find a way to lock him up to a contract extension.
A pipe-dream? Maybe, but the Islanders have the resources to pull it off if they choose to do so.
I'm Chris Triants, and this is my blog.
Let's go Islanders!