Vanek/Moulson Trade – Who Wins?

Thomas VanekOn Sunday, we saw what will end up being one of the biggest trades of the year as the Islanders sent Matt Moulson to the Buffalo Sabres, along with their first round pick in 2014 and second round draft pick in 2015. In exchange, the Islanders picked up one of the top wingers in the NHL in Thomas Vanek.

Making a case for the winner in this deal may not be as easy as it seems. Sure, Vanek is a top winger, but Moulson isn’t too shabby himself. Granted, he’s been playing alongside John Tavares for a few years, but the guy has skill and is relatively underrated.

Moulson joins a rebuilding team in Buffalo, but the team knows where they stand are fully embraced in the rebuild that lies ahead. Buffalo was able to drop some salary in the trade, which will greatly help their cause as well. Before all is said and done, we can expect Ryan Miller to be on his way out before too long as well.

Meanwhile, Vanek joins a strong young Islanders team looking to make another playoff run this year. He will fit in nicely on the top line alongside Tavares and Kyle Okposo. Expect that line to really pick up steam as they start to click together.

So in the player for player exchange, we’ll give the Islanders the edge. Moulson is a good player, but Vanek is definitely an upgrade for a team poised to make a run.

The winners and losers in this deal are really going to come down to the draft picks and free agency results next summer. If the Isles are a playoff team this season, the first round pick will come much later. Not saying that a quality player can’t be drafted later in the first round, but its going to be someone who might require a couple years of fine tuning in the minors. The second round pick in 2015 will be much of the same. As the Islanders continue to improve, we can expect this to be a late second round pick, and a player who will not make an impact for the team until 2016 or later.

Now, both Vanek and Moulson will be free agents this summer. However, both players have a full season to negotiate new contracts with their new respective teams. Despite that, Long Island is looking like a much more promising destination than Buffalo at this point. If you’re Matt Moulson, at 30 years old, are you really going to want to join a rebuilding effort that is likely going to last a few years? Stranger things have happened, and maybe he’s looking for stability in a new contract, but I wouldn’t count on him sticking around in Buffalo.

In New York, the Islanders have done the rebuild and are trying to solidify their position in the league as contenders. They’ll face challenges, like any other team, but with the available cap space should have no issue locking up Vanek long term – providing he wants to stay.

All things considered, I’m going to give the edge to the Islanders on this trade. They’ve lost a couple of vital draft picks, however, the return they should get from Vanek over the next few years will prove to be worth it. In Buffalo, they’ll cap off a losing trade with a few more losing seasons. If they waited until closer to the deadline, they might have had a team willing to pay a higher price to acquire Vanek.

What do you guys think of this early season trade? In your opinion, who came out as the winner?

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