Thomas Vanek has bolstered Islanders' attack
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Thomas Vanek showed all facets of what the 30-year-old has to offer on Tuesday night against the Rangers.
Vanek had a sluggish first two periods, losing a couple of back checks that led to scoring chances and fumbling away a couple of chances himself.
But the big winger with amazing talent showed some of that in the final five minutes, quickly turning the puck from backhand to forehand and depositing the winner behind Rangers goaltender Cam Talbot.
It was Vanek's second game-winner in as many games against the Rangers and there is no denying the chemistry between him, John Tavares and Kyle Okposo. Since Dec. 17, Tavares (25 points) and Vanek (23) are Nos. 1 and 2 in the NHL in scoring, a span of 18 Islanders games. Okposo (22) is tied for third.
As far as the on-ice aspects of Vanek's game, Jack Capuano considered breaking up the hottest line in the NHL thanks to them being on the ice for Rick Nash's two first-period goals. Despite having three goals and three assists in his last five games, Vanek is a minus-5 and his line has had some hairy moments in its own end.
"They struggled a little bit in the first," Capuano said of the line, "but they came around."
As for the off-ice focus on Vanek's future -- he will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season -- that picture should become clearer soon. Islanders general manager Garth Snow said Wednesday that conversations with Steve Bartlett, Vanek's agent, will be intensifying.
The Islanders need to know if Vanek is willing to sign a long-term deal with the team. If not, the March 5 trade deadline could mark the end of Vanek's brief stay, since Snow would likely try to recoup some of the price he gave up to acquire Vanek from the Sabres -- a conditional 2014 first-round pick and a 2015 second-rounder, along with Matt Moulson -- rather than keep Vanek to try and make the playoffs, then end up with nothing once Vanek departs on July 1.
Bartlett told ESPN's Pierre LeBrun on Tuesday that "Thomas has to decide whether at this stage of his career if that's the best spot for him. But his decision in the end won't reflect at all in the fact that he's found way more positives than negatives about his experience on the Island. He's had nothing but positives to say to me about the way he's been treated."