John Tavares injury impacts Canada, the Islanders and Sabres

The loss of John Tavares may hurt Canada’s depth, but the real drama comes for fans of his New York Islanders and the Buffalo Sabres thanks to a previous trade involving Thomas Vanek.

Multiple news outlets are reporting that New York Islanders center John Tavares is done for the season after sustaining a knee injury in Canada’s 2-1 Olympic victory over Latvia.

Naturally this hurts Canada’s depth as the team moves on to a crucial semi-final game against the United States, but the injury also impacts a couple NHL squads.

First and foremost, Tavares’ Islanders are dealt a seasonal death blow by the injury. According to Bob Waterman of Elias sports, only two players have been in on more than 40 percent of their team’s goals this season – Tavares and Sidney Crosby.

If you’re an eternal Long Island optimist, you could point to how Tampa Bay has played since similar superstar Steven Stamkos went down with a long-term injury, but the Lightning has counted on a Vezina-worthy performance in net by Ben Bishop; New York does not have such goaltending and even if you are willing to put Kyle Okposo‘s offensive season up against that of Tampa’s Marty St-Louis, the Bolts still come out ahead in other metrics that explain their success.

Heading into the Olympic break, the Islanders were on a 3-6-1 skid that saw them drift further away from any hope of a wild card playoff berth. With Calgary and Florida holding two games in hand, the Islanders could hypothetically be drafting third overall if the league-wide standings held from here on out – and as I’ve already established, I don’t see the Isles getting any better once NHL play resumes.

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That’s where the Sabres come in. When Buffalo and New York swung the deal that saw Matt Moulson and Thomas Vanek change addresses, the Sabres received a first-round draft pick from the Islanders. But that selection was protected; New York can defer to the 2015 draft if they pick in the top 10 this summer.

Frankly, I can’t see a scenario in which the Islanders aren’t picking in the top five now. The 2015 draft is looking a lot stronger than the 2014 cohort right now, so even if the Islanders were selecting say, ninth overall this season, it may have been worth it to give the Sabres that selection instead of risking a scenario where the pick ends up even higher in 2015 and New York loses out on Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel or Noah Hanifin.

Now you have to take that chance. Even if it’s not as high-end or deep, the 2014 draft still features excellence up top – defenseman Aaron Ekblad and forwards Leon Draisaitl, Sam Bennett and Sam Reinhart.

Since the Sabres are likely picking in the top three this year anyway, this is gold for them. Two high selections in 2015 is even better than two in 2014. It’s never good when you lose your team’s best player, but the Tavares injury is looking even more complicated for New York now.