Thomas Vanek could have been paid handsomely to stay in Buffalo. A source, in fact, says the Sabres were willing to make him the highest-paid player in the NHL.

He'd rather win than take part in a rebuild, which has been his message since last season.

"I enjoyed my time there, but I didn’t want to be a part of that," Vanek told reporters in New York today following his first practice with the Islanders. "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 is 29, not old by any stretch but not young, either. He watched Mike Grier inconsolably weep following his last NHL game, and Vanek would like to do what Grier didn't -- win the Stanley Cup.

"“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 it’s business and I’m happy to be an Islander.”