Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

No clear winner of Thomas Vanek and Matt Moulson trade yet

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Pundits everywhere have been pretty hasty in their declaration of  the Buffalo Sabres as the winner of the blockbuster deal with the New York Islanders earlier this week. The pervasive line of thinking seems to be that Garth Snow overpaid for Thomas Vanek, who typically scores just about the same number of goals as Matt Moulson—the player that went the other way to Buffalo in the exchange.

The kicker seems to be the 2014 first-round pick and the 2015 second-round pick that Snow sent to Buffalo along with Moulson.

If New York was a lock to make the playoffs, then perhaps folks wouldn’t already be assigning value to an unknown thing like a future draft selection. What they aren’t considering is how much better Vanek could make the Islanders. He’s the fifth-most prolific goal scorer in the league since 2006-07, having posted 229 in that span.

Meanwhile, the Sabres have to make two strong selections to make this deal stick and make sense. If they bust on either selection and don’t retain Moulson, this deal quickly looks good for the Isles. Even if they manage to keep Moulson—something that seems unlikely given that the team is rebuilding just like New York has been over the last few years—they’ll need to knock the picks out of the park.

While Buffalo has been hording picks and is clearly attempting to build through the draft, why folks have been so quick to pile on Snow the the Islanders for the move is somewhat surprising. Pretend the Pittsburgh Penguins or Boston Bruins made a similar deal for Vanek. Would anyone bat an eye?

Not for a second.

Since it’s Snow and New York though, folks seem pretty quick to assume that this deal will fail.

Consider this though: Buffalo was willing to make Vanek the highest-paid player in the NHL to retain him, and he still wanted out.

If it’s not about money for Vanek, then it is probably about winning. Something the Islanders are much more capable of doing at this stage than the Sabres. If he clicks with John Tavares, why wouldn’t he want to stick around? Could New York have downed the Penguins in the first round with a little more goal scoring help? Perhaps.

Regardless, there are too many moving parts in this thing to declare a winner already. We won’t have a clear idea of the true value swapped here until two years from now. Both Moulson and Vanek are free agents this summer, and what they decide to do will make an impact. What the Sabres manage to dig up with their picks factors in as well.

In short: there are no winners in this deal. Not yet, and there won’t be for a while. Especially in light of the fact that Buffalo retained so much of Vanek’s salary in the deal.

Let’s let the players play, and the chips will fall where they may.

Tags: Buffalo Sabres Matt Moulson New York Islanders NHL Thomas Vanek

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