NEW YORK — Thomas Vanek knew a trade from the Buffalo Sabres was likely. He just didn't expect to be shipped off to the New York Islanders this early in the season.
From one rebuild to another for the prolific goal scorer.
Vanek joined the Islanders on Monday morning just hours after the deal that sent him to Long Island for forward Matt Moulson and a pair of draft picks.
Vanek and Moulson, who are both 29, can become unrestricted free agents after this season.
Vanek, who has four goals and five assists this season, has scored 40 goals twice and was an All-Star in 2009. Moulson had six goals and three assists in 11 games with New York this season. He has 124 goals and 109 assists in 333 games in seven seasons with the Los Angeles Kings and the Islanders.
New York general manager Garth Snow declined to say how long the teams talked before the trade.
"You have to give up something to get something, and Matt was an excellent player for us the last four years," Snow said. "You have to sacrifice in certain areas to make additions in others. I think that's pretty self-explanatory, and I wish Matt nothing but the best moving forward."
The Sabres own the worst record in the NHL and are clearly looking to the future as they continue to sell off veteran parts for building blocks. Vanek was unlikely to return to Buffalo, and was a prime candidate to be sent packing.
"I knew it was going to happen sooner or later with the situation in Buffalo," Vanek said. "But when it does happen, initially it's a shock. I'm excited to come here. Great young team, up-tempo style. I'm looking forward to it."