Matt Moulson knows hockey is a business, and he's known this for a very long time.
He's known it ever since he was drafted by the Penguins but not signed, recalled by the Kings but not valued enough to get another contract, signed by the Islanders but not given a one-way deal, re-signed by the Islanders but only after coming minutes away from an arbitration hearing (bonus Vanek comparable!), and re-signed by the Islanders once more under the implicit threat of a trade.
Now he's felt it in the most jarring of ways, finding out on a rare off day that the Isles had traded him upstate to a team in last place. It was a surprise, and yet it was always a possibility:
"On one hand surprised by the trade but another not really," Moulson's agent, Wade Arnott, said in an email to The Buffalo News after talking with his client. "Matt will now have the opportunity to choose were he wants to play whether that is Buffalo or elsewhere in free agency."
The Islanders have some problems, and Moulson wasn't really one of them, but he also isn't Thomas Vanek. The Austrian star has similar numbers to Moulson but is a different style and skillset, so Moulson (plus picks) was sacrificed to acquire this different look.
On a related note, the Islanders are also plotting the future, and the slow pace of talks to re-sign Moulson indicate that future did not forecast Moulson as a first-line winger into his 30s.
Whether that's a fair forecast or not, whether it comes true or not, it has to hurt. It hurts fans who mourn the loss of a favorite:
It hurts the player too.
Moulson took the high road in signing off to fans...
Would like to thank all the great people and fans I was able to meet in NY..I will miss you all..this is the beginning of a new chapter— Matt Moulson (@MMoulson) October 28, 2013
...but he also showed some frank emotions in absorbing the news.
Moulson told ESPN.com reporter Katie Strang via phone:
"I think over the years I've shown my want to be a part of the organization and turning around the team into being successful. I guess, obviously, in the long run, they didn't feel the same."
"I guess this is what happens in pro sports," Moulson said. "I gotta move on."
It's painful, it's true.
The Islanders made a bet that Moulson, a loyal soldier and longtime buddy of their most important player John Tavares, wouldn't continue to compare to Vanek and wouldn't continue to be worth the value Moulson's camp would seek this summer.
As if announcing a breakup, the Isles effectively said, "It's not you, it's Vanek."
More from Lighthouse Hockey:
- Matt Moulson-Thomas Vanek Trade Made without Contract Extension Talks
- No Pizza For Spicoli: Saying Goodbye to Matt Moulson
- Darcy Regier: Thomas Vanek/Matt Moulson trade was 'off and on' for a while
- NHL Suspension Puzzle: Zdeno Chara is a star, Michael Grabner is an Islander
- Streit as an Arrow: Ex-Islanders Captain Returns as a Flyer