So Garth Snow decided to put a bunch of Isles fans into cardiac arrest on Sunday night by trading Matt Moulson, the 1st rounder in 2014 and a 2nd rounder in 2015 to the Sabres for Thomas Vanek. Now, there are some of you that might be saying, "So what, DFG! You aren't a fan of either team. You should be posting more random Steeler posts or just not posting at all." Well I say, "NO". I will post what I want and when I want to. So there. This trade puzzled me for about an hour early this morning. It made me think about the chance that the Pens would dump a player like James Neal, Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis, or dare I say Crosby/Malkin. But then I got it. Today's NHL is a bi-polar league. You have teams on either side of the fence whether it is from a talent standpoint or a financial standpoint (they go hand in hand usually). You are either a "win-now" team or a team in "rebuilding mode" to "win-soon".
I was thinking about this trade in terms of actual team impact vs. hobby impact. Moulson, while a great scorer and playmaker in the NHL playing alongside Tavares, would most definitely be a fringe hobby player (or a minor star if you go by that terminology) while Vanek is surely a fringe star player and garners much more traction in the hobby (partially because of his rookie class, partially because of his game play, partially because of where he played). As an example, for the last 6 months, Vanek has been in the top 10 hockey player searches on Collector Revolution, so someone out there is looking for him. You can even take a look at closed auctions on Ebay. Matt Moulson...not so much. From a team aspect, this could either be the best move for both teams or a disaster for the soon to be team from Brooklyn. Here's why I think so.
Because GM Garth Snow was upset with a 4-4-3 start to the season, he wanted something to shake up the lineup. The Isles are probably an impact player away from being a serious Cup contender. While there isn't much by way of offensive prospects or minor leaguers in the organization that can make an immediate impact on a call up assignment, he wanted to check the market for something to spark the team. Sabres GM Darcy Regier was more than happy to oblige by dumping Vanek in exchange for more younger talent and draft potential. Buffalo has shown over the last few years that they are building from the ground up and that will eventually lead them to the Cup. At least, that's the model that seems to work in today's NHL (see LA, Chicago, Pittsburgh, etc).
The problem is that both guys are UFA's at the end of the season and the chance of either of them signing is probably slim to none (just ask Vanek's agent). Feasibly, this could be one-and-done for both players if an offer isn't tendered and neither player signed extensions as part of the trade. An offer, if it does come, is going to hinge heavily on serious play from both guys. I think Vanek might have a bit of an uphill battle because he will immediately have the pressure on him to perform. The Isles obviously feel that he can not only replace Moulson's production but eclipse it and create one of the best lines in hockey along with John Tavares. I don't think he will be a disappointment but even if he is a bust and the Islanders fall flat, they will surely retool and come back next season but without Vanek. That would mean that not only did they give away Moulson, but two draft picks as well and have nothing to show for it. Vanek would simply test the UFA market in the prime of his career and most likely get paid handsomely to do it.
The Stanley Cup is always the goal and in the long run, I think Moulson might have a better position playing with a team that has a solid goaltender and some defensive help in front of the net. But that is a stretch this year since Buffalo is at 2-10-1 at this point in the season. Regardless, Buffalo gets the better report card in this trade because they get a chance to audition Moulson on different lines, try to find the team chemistry, or deal him at the trade deadline for something that does work. Worst case scenario for them, Moulson is either gone at the deadline for more draft picks, gone at the end of the season and they still have the two other picks they got in the trade, or he signs a multi-year deal either in the season or at the end and solidifies their top scoring line.
As I mentioned, Vanek came out of the that huge double rookie class of 2005-06 after that 2004 lockout. He has over 1,400 cards on the market to show for it with a reference value in the range of $18K. His value is fueled by rookie auto's and memorabilia cards from the likes of UD Ultimate, The Cup, and newer issues like Dominion and Prime. Vanek cards tend to sell regularly, especially the nicer hits that are out here. Matt Moulson has only been in the league since 2007-08 and has almost 350 cards. His five rookie cards get some market traction but the bulk of his collection is centered on memorabilia and autographs. I think Moulson might get some notice now that he is in Buffalo and Vanek can only get better playing alongside hobby darling John Tavares.
We shall see if it's in the cards for either player. (pun intended)