Former Minnesota Golden Gophers men’s hockey forward Thomas Vanek was traded from the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres to the New York Islanders on Sunday. The Austrian sniper spent two seasons with the Maroon and Gold and helped Minnesota win the 2003 National Championship as a freshman.
Just 13 games into the young NHL season, the Sabres felt it was necessary to try and get the most they could for the veteran winger who’s scheduled to be a free agent at season’s end. In the trade, the Islanders sent forward Matt Moulson as well as a 2014 first-round and a 2015 second-round draft pick to upstate New York.
Buffalo is off to an NHL worst 2-10-1 overall record with Vanek as the Sabres’ leading scorer with four goals and five assists. He has been the leading goal scorer for Buffalo in six of his eight seasons with the team since he made his NHL debut in 2005.
It has been rumored that Vanek is looking to join the Minnesota Wild in free agency next summer in a permanent return the Twin Cities.
Vanek has been an adopted Minnesotan ever since he first stepped foot at the University of Minnesota. In two seasons with the Gophers, he accumulated 113 points and led the team in scoring each year. Vanek’s recruitment and signing by coach Don Lucia is arguably the best signing of Lucia’s coaching career.
With the Islanders, Vanek joins Aaron Ness and Kyle Okposo in the team’s organization as former Gophers. Vanek will join Okposo as wings on the team’s top line when the Islanders host the New York Rangers on Tuesday. Ness is currently a defenseman with the Islander’s American Hockey League affiliate in Bridgeport, Conn.
Vanek’s trade to the Islanders did not come with a contract extension, so there’s still a chance he will make a homecoming at the Xcel Energy Center.