The Buffalo Sabres are in last place in the NHL, and the New York Islanders at 4-4-3 are not where they hoped to be in the first month of the season, but the two teams' exchange of pending free agent left wingers Thomas Vanek and Matt Moulson was not a knee-jerk reaction to their teams' current states.
Canadian Press reporter Stephen Whyno is among those reporting that Sabres general manager Darcy Regier said the trade had been in the works for a while:
Regier, quoted in the Buffalo News blog Sabres Edge:
"It was a deal that was off and on here for a while."
The Sabres have been under fire from fans because of their poor 2-10-1 record and league-worst offense of 1.46 goals per game, made worse by embarrassing moments from players like John Scott, who is facing suspension.
Regier also said doing it now and avoiding the risk of a Vanek injury spoiling the opportunity, was important.
That said, Vanek was a an almost-certain trade chip during Buffalo's lost season who could go at any time. Even with recent controversy and bad PR around the Sabres, it's the Islanders' willingness to make this deal that got the Sabres to move now rather than wait until closer to the NHL's annual trade deadline bazaar.
Islanders general manager Garth Snow's disappointment with his team's start so far has become clear: He told Newsday's Arthur Staple he was "not going to sit by and let games pass." Combine that with the fact it was the Islanders who offered more (the player plus two draft picks), and you can see why any on-going discussions were consummated now, Oct. 27, 11 games into the season.