Report: Sabres Were Willing to Make Thomas Vanek Highest-Paid Player in NHL Prior to Trade to Islanders

Thomas Vanek, Tuukka RaskAll the money in the world could not have kept Thomas Vanek in Buffalo.

The Sabres captain was dealt to the Islanders for Matt Moulson and a pair of draft picks in a blockbuster deal over the weekend, but not before Buffalo attempted to compensate him handsomely to stay in town.

In fact, John Vogl of The Buffalo News cites a source saying that the Sabres were willing to make Vanek the highest-paid player in the NHL.

The 29-year-old winger wanted no part of a hefty contract, however. The Sabres have entered full-on rebuilding mode, with goalie Ryan Miller the only legitimate star remaining on the roster, and Vanek found it best to take his talents elsewhere.

“I enjoyed my time there, but I didn’t want to be a part of that,” Vanek told reporters in New York on Monday. “We traded pretty much every veteran. The message was clear that they’re going for draft picks. I think our last game we played four teenagers. Good, young players, but young players take time.”

Vanek, a career Sabre up until Sunday, reached the playoffs in four of his first six seasons, including trips to the Eastern Conference finals in each of his first two years. Buffalo failed to make the postseason in 2011-12 and last year’s lockout-shortened campaign, however, and this season’s 2-10-1 start appears to have the team destined for another disappointing finish.

The Isles are far from a powerhouse, but they did enjoy a resurgence last season, qualifying for the playoffs and nearly knocking off the heavily favored Penguins in the opening round.

“You train all summer long, practice every day, and you want to be on a competitive team that has a chance,” Vanek said. “Right now we struggled there. It’s hard to leave when you do struggle. I was one of the leaders, but at the same time the reality is it’s business and I’m happy to be an Islander.”

Vanek, who is expected to make his Islanders debut Tuesday against the Rangers, is currently slated to enter free agency at the end of the season.