Featured, NHL

The Bittersweet & The Bold: Matt Moulson For Thomas Vanek

Fortune favors the bold.

– Some Latin Proverb

For years New York Islander fans (myself, included) have been waiting years for Garth Snow to pull the trigger and cash in on the team’s painstaking rebuild.

We had the depth to pull of a move for a star, it was just a matter of time.

Tradehawks on Islander forums have clamored for the past two years that it was time for the Islanders to trade picks, prospects and players for a star. The conservative contingent preached patience, and more importantly faith in GM Garth Snow.

Last night, that faith was put to the test.

It all happened very fast. There were no rumblings of a move out of Islanders camp at all. Snow’s MO is to work quietly and surprise hockeydom with a subtle move here and there. He’s not a blockbuster move type of general manager.

The only other time Snow went for broke was the pre-rebuild blockbuster that brought Ryan Smyth to the Island for two prospects (Robert Nilsson, Ryan O’Marra) and a first round pick. That move came right at the deadline and shocked the hockey world.

That was Snow’s first trade deadline. Since then he has stayed the course, promising not to mortgage the team’s future for a rental player.

This doesn’t mean the Islanders GM hasn’t been active.

Snow has made several under-the-radar moves to help the Islanders fill holes along the way. His best move was signing career minor leaguer Matt Moulson before the 2009-10 season.

Dan Saraceni of Lighthouse Hockey put it perfectly:

But since then, and through another solid half-season of 15 goals in 48 games, I came to realize that Moulson meant more than just goals. Everyone, including myself, had taken Moulson for granted and simply expected him to score a bunch of goals every year because that’s just what he does. We had lost sight of what he really was.

Every NHL team signs minor league free agents every year. Somebody’s gotta fill those roster spots and that cap space. Most of those players remain minor leaguers. Some come up to the NHL and become responsible fourth liners, or third liners if the team is talent deficient. Every once in a while, one of those guys has a good performance in a playoff game and his parents or wife get to shine in the spot light for a night or two.

Not Moulson. Here was an anonymous AHLer, signed for peanuts to a two-way contract, who lined up against the NHL’s best for five seasons (missing a grand total of one (1) game the entire time) and scored dozens of goals every single year.

It doesn’t matter if his center was John Tavares, Bryan Trottier or Bozo the Clown. Moulson produced. Wind him up, send him over the boards and he’d head to the net and wait to knock an errant rebound or bouncing puck behind yet another goalie.

Moulson was not one of the Islanders best hockey players, but he was one of their most productive players. Whether or not that was because he was playing alongside his hometown pal/incredible hockey player John Tavares remains to be seen.

Prior to this deal Moulson’s name was never really bandied about in connection to the ‘big move’ that was coming. His name was mentioned in trade rumors a few years back but the Islanders opted to re-sign him instead. Since then, it was all quiet.

Then last night things started to get weird.

It all started when noted rumormonger/must-follow on Twitter @IncarceratedBob tweeted:

 

Bob’s reputation is that of someone who tweets out a bunch of crazy shit and sometimes it would stick. 

The approach a fan has to take to one of his tweets is simple, you sit and wait. You can’t react or else you could look like a fool.

Within minutes the movers and shakers of the hockey media confirmed that the Islanders had traded Matt Moulson, a first round pick in 2014, and a second rounder in 2015 to the Sabres for Thomas Vanek.

Vanek is an elite talent in the NHL and Moulson is an elite scorer in the NHL. Both are 29 years old and in a walk year. The difference is that Vanek is a more dynamic player than the former 9th round pick out of Cornell.

Despite that, Moulson’s numbers are right there with the man who was taken 258 picks ahead of him in the 2003 NHL Draft.

Sabres fans should be happy with the haul they got for Vanek. It wasn’t a matter of if their co-captain would be traded this season, but when and to whom.

Buffalo couldn’t afford to have what happened with Chris Drury and Dany Briere happen to them again with Vanek and Miller.

The team desperately needs to rebuild and trading Miller and Vanek are the keys to that renewal. Getting two picks and Moulson is a good start for the Sabres.

This isn’t a trade that should be judged as a who won and lost trade because the two teams made this deal for completely different reasons.

The Sabres are getting serious about rebuilding and the Islanders wanted to make a statement that they are ready to compete for a Stanley Cup. As an Islander fan that message has me brimming with excitement.

Management didn’t think Moulson was good enough to get the Islanders to where they felt they should be this season, so they dumped him for someone they think will take them to the promised land.

It isn’t easy to swallow. But sports are a business we are told. And in the business world, fairy tales usually stay just that.

Moulson was more than just a fan favorite on Long Island. He was a storyline that every Islander fan fell in love with. A real Cinderella, the likes of which we may never see again.

He’s been an incredible soldier for the Islanders during the rebuild and it is unfair he doesn’t get to reap the fruits of his labor.

Moulson’s role with the Islanders was clear from the moment he cracked the opening day roster in 2009. He was to play Robin to Tavares’ Batman. He fulfilled that role and then some. Not only did he pot at least 30 goals in each non-lockout season he played on LI, but he only missed one game during his time in Orange and Blue.

 

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Three long years and your favorite man
Is that any way to say hello?
And you hold me like you’ll never let me go
Like you’ll never let me
-The Cure

But now Batman has another Batman.

For years we’ve been begging for a player of Thomas Vanek’s caliber and now we have him. The team likely would never be able to compete for a cup without another elite talent to partner with Tavares.

Of course we didn’t expect to give up Moulson to get said player and thought that the team would be better off addressing their defensive woes before going for a star scorer, but alas it wasn’t meant to unfold that way.

Vanek and Tavares have no choice but to click. It is on them to take the Islanders to the next level. They are two of the best players in the entire league and will play together for at least the next 70 games. That is incredibly exciting for Islander fans.

Back in 1979-80, the Islanders made a similarly fashioned deal. They dealt away Billy Harris and Dave Lewis for Butch Goring. Harris was the first ever Islander and Lewis was a big part of a team that looked likely to contend for a cup. But in March the team dealt for Goring, a move that served as a catalyst for the Islander Dynasty.

A bold move is often needed for a team to accomplish what the Islanders are trying to accomplish. Now we get to see if it was the right move.

So buckle up Long Island, this is going to be something.

 

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