The Islanders shook up their longtime core and added another NHL star to their ranks Sunday night, trading Matt Moulson, a 2014 first-round draft pick and a 2015 second-round pick to the Sabres for Thomas Vanek, a two-time 40-goal scorer.
Vanek will go right into the lineup on John Tavares' wing for Tuesday night's game against the Rangers at Nassau Coliseum in a bid to shake the Islanders out of their inconsistent start to the season.
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"I didn't like the way we'd been playing," general manager Garth Snow told Newsday on Sunday night. "We're better than our record indicates and we need to take the next step. Thomas is an elite player in this league and he'll help us now and in the future."
Vanek, 29, an unrestricted free agent after this season, scored 254 goals in eight-plus seasons with the Sabres. Contract talks have not started between Snow and Steve Bartlett, Vanek's agent, but now the Isles have 71 games to get Vanek -- a native of Vienna, Austria, who is close with Islanders forward Michael Grabner -- acclimated to life on Long Island.
Moulson, who turns 30 on Friday, filled that role as Tavares' right-hand man for four-plus seasons. The two friends were fairly inseparable on the ice, with Moulson scoring 118 goals as an Islander since Snow signed him to a minor-league deal in 2009, the same summer Tavares was drafted first overall.
Moulson's three-year, $9.4- million deal expires after the season. There was some discontent from his camp that no contract extension talks had begun during the summer, when the Isles locked up Travis Hamonic and Josh Bailey to long-term deals.
"Matt has been a great player for us the past few years," Snow said. "Obviously, he's a good person. But I can tell you I'm not happy with where we are record-wise. We're better than this. We need to take the next step, and I wasn't just going to sit by and let games pass."
The Islanders (4-4-3) have a better 11-game record than they had in each of the previous four seasons. But expectations are higher now, and the Isles' inability to win consecutive games has been a glaring weakness, highlighted by Saturday's 5-2 loss to the struggling Flyers.
The Islanders are thin on defense, with Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion) and Brian Strait (upper body) both out, and goaltending has been an issue at times. But Snow chose to shake things up among his top forwards.
"For the most part, I'm happy with our group," Snow said. "We have to be more consistent. The bar was set the second half of last season and in the playoffs, and we need to get there, sooner rather than later.
"We know our players in there can do the job. It's a matter of going out and doing it."