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Will Thomas Vanek or Matt Moulson return to Long Island?

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UNIONDALE, NY - FEBRUARY 08: Thomas Vanek #26 of the New York Islanders skates in an NHL hockey game against the Colorado Avalanche at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on February 8, 2014 in Uniondale, New York. Colorado won 5-2. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Thomas Vanek

Last season, GM Garth Snow traded popular first-line winger Matt Moulson and a first-round pick to the Buffalo Sabres for Thomas Vanek, who played the same position but was seen as an offensive upgrade. The Islanders failed to make the playoffs and cut bait with Vanek when he wouldn’t sign long term, trading him to the Montreal Canadiens. Moulson, meanwhile, was traded by Buffalo to the Minnesota Wild. Now, Moulson is an unrestricted free agent whom the Wild will likely let walk, potentially to make room for … Vanek, who is also an unrestricted free agent but whom the Wild will only sign for a short-term deal. 

Once more, with feeling: Moulson needs a home and so might Vanek if he’s not down with a short-term deal with the Wild.

Could either of them end up back with the New York Islanders?

It’s an interesting spot for these players, for two reasons. First, because the Islanders have shown a willingness to throw money at players who give them the time of day. Second, because good luck trying to find a player with John Tavares’ offensive credentials with whom to play on another team.

Moulson was a 0.73 points per game player in 304 games with the Islanders, a higher PPG average than with the Kings, Wild and Sabres in smaller samples. Vanek was a 0.94 PPG player in 47 games with the Islanders.

So has Tavares run into Snow’s office slamming his stick on the desk, demanding one of them come back on his wing?

It might not matter with Moulson. As Arthur Staple notes, the relationship between him and the Islanders is like a cocktail of bad blood and harsh reality, in that Moulson might not have been back anyway had he not been traded.

What about Vanek? He never slammed the door on the Islanders after turning down a 7-year, $50-million contract. As his agent Stephen Bartlett said on KFAN: “He made a decision a year ago that he wanted to test free agency.

And so he did. 

What he finds as a UFA will determine whether he’d give the Islanders another glance. Tavares is a draw, and he knows the organization now. It’s also not a place where his postseason flop becomes his calling card – just getting the Islanders to the playoff again would be the first mission.

It comes down to whether the money is still there (maybe) and whether the Islanders’ commitment to term would trump a “show me” contract from another team.

Because it’s not about the money. If it was, he’d still be an Islander. 

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