It’s rare that a trade in any major sports benefits both teams equally, but the NHL’s two deals that went through last week were about as fair as you can get. The New York Islanders traded away winger Matt Moulson and two draft picks to the Buffalo Sabres in order to acquire all-star forward Thomas Vanek, and the league-leading Colorado Avalanche sent forward Steve Downie back to his original team, the Philadelphia Flyers, for Maxime Talbot.
The blockbuster name out of both of these trades is Vanek, whose two 40-goal seasons and 500 career points have solidified him as one of the game’s best scorers. Buffalo fans should not be too disappointed to say goodbye to Vanek, however, as the team is clearly in the midst of a rebuilding process after missing the playoffs the last two seasons and starting the 2013-2014 season with a 2-13-1 record. By loaning out Vanek, the Sabres lose a top-tier forward, but they also receive a very capable scorer in Matt Moulson, in addition to a prized first-round pick in the 2014 draft and a second-round pick in the 2015 draft. For a team looking towards the future, this is a great deal, even if they do lose Moulson to free agency
The Islanders, meanwhile, may have found the perfect partner for top center and captain John Tavares. Vanek is a tremendous force on the power play, has a lethal shot and has become a skilled passer in his veteran years – all welcome attributes as far as Tavares and company are concerned. New York is an up-and-coming organization, having made the playoffs for the first time in six years before starting 2013 down 6-5-3. With the addition of Vanek alongside Tavares, the Isles are clearly hoping to continue their upward trend and move deep into the playoffs come April.
The Downie-Talbot deal is a curious one at first glance, as both players are notoriously tough, hard-nosed wingers who can kill penalties, grind in the corners and score goals when called upon. The Avalanche have gotten very solid play out of Downie, who had seven points and 36 penalty minutes in 11 games, but evidently the playoff experience and well-documented locker room presence of Talbot was enough for them to pull the trigger on the deal. In his nine-year career, Talbot has been to the playoffs six times. He also has Stanley Cup experience with Pittsburgh, losing to Detroit in 2008 before beating them in a rematch one year later. With the Avalanche looking like a sure-fire playoff team this year, the addition of Talbot is ideal.
The Flyers are on the other end of the spectrum from the Avs, having started the season with just eight points through 13 games. It doesn’t appear that they would have any need for Talbot’s playoff-experience, and Downie’s propensity for fighting and scoring timely goals will be warmly welcomed in Philly. They do have to take on Downie’s $2.75 million contract, however, while Talbot will only cost Colorado $1.75 million. Apparently Flyers GM Paul Holmgren thinks the benefit of bringing back the younger, quicker winger is worth it. With the league’s second worst record, Philadelphia will hope the move pays off as they try to avoid missing the playoffs for the second year in a row.
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