Thursday, September 4, 2014

Building the Buffalo Sabres' 2014-15 roster--LW, Matt Moulson

Reprinted with permission from

It's been a long journey both literally and figuratively for Buffalo Sabres left wing Matt Moulson. But with his signing to a long-term contract in July, perhaps he's finally found a home in Buffalo.

The soon to be 31 yr. old Mississauga, ON native was selected the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 9th round (a round that doesn't even exist anymore) of the 2003 draft.

He was a captain for his Ivy League hockey team, Cornell University, and graduated in 2006 with a degree in economics.

Although Moulson wasn't signed by Pittsburgh, in September, 2006, new LA Kings GM Dean Lombardi signed the winger to a two-year entry-level contract.

He was sent to their AHL affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs, and proceeded to score 25 goals in 77 games. The next year he scored 28 goals in 57 games while also tallying five with the big club through 22 games.

Moulson eventually left the Kings organization in 2009 and signed with the NY Islanders.
In his first three seasons on Long Island, he never missed a game and scored 30, 31 and 36 goals, respectively.

After a lockout-shortened 2012-13 season and a brief stint with the club to start the 2013-14 season, he was traded to Buffalo in the Thomas Vanek deal.

It was a lopsided deal orchestrated by former Sabres GM Darcy Regier, which saw Moulson come to Buffalo along with a conditional 1st round pick (2014 or 2015, to which  the Isles deferred to 2015) and a 2015 second round pick.

Before even hitting the ice, Moulson immediately endeared himself to Sabres fans by keeping his #26.

It was the number worn by Vanek, and after seven years of a perceived or real self-centeredness on his part, many fans grew tired of his game. Moulson taking #26 effectively put an end to Vanek's time in Buffalo.

That Regier would get a 1st and a 2nd round pick for Vanek, who's time in Buffalo was pretty much done, was impressive. That he could land a comparable player in Moulson was even better.

Stat-wise the two are relatively close. For their careers, Vanek is at a .417 goals/game clip while Moulson is at a .355 rate. Their goals/shots taken ratio has Vanek at 14.7%, Moulson at 13.6%.

Although the stats are comparable with a distinct edge to Vanek, their games are much different and mirror their divergent paths to the NHL.

Vanek was the 5th overall selection in that 2003 Draft and was playing in the NHL beginning with the 2005 season. He came into a great situation in Buffalo, had a breakout season his sophomore year and proceeded to sign a $51M offer-sheet which the Sabres matched. He had the talent, knew it, benefitted greatly from it and may have become complacent in no small part because of it.

Moulson's path, as noted earlier, was longer and much more difficult. He signed five contracts to begin his career, three of them two-way, and found himself in Manchester making $105,000 the year after scoring five goals in his 22-game debut with the Kings.

His total earnings of just under $20M to date is not much more than the $18M that Vanek made in the first two years of that 2007 offer-sheet.

And while Vanek oft-times was seen floating because of his skill, Moulson presents a workman-like manner on the ice with the latter playing a consistent, 200-foot game.

Moulson's not going to dazzle with a wicked slapshot or somehow tip a screaming blast from the point like Vanek can, but he will do what's necessary to get himself into a position to score. And when he in that position, he usually does just that.

Maybe the best part of the Matt Moulson story for Buffalo, though, is that he wanted to be back with the Sabres.

After being traded to the Minnesota Wild for checker Torrey Mitchell, a 2014 2nd-round pick (Vaclav Karabacek, 49th overall) and a 2016 2nd rounder, the Sabres signed him as a free agent to a 5yr./$25M contract on July 1.

During the period between the draft and the start of free agency, Sabres GM, Tim Murray, had mentioned that he was surprised at how much interest there was in Buffalo and he mentioned that the interest was coming from legitimate, NHL players. One of them was Moulson.

Murray was quoted as saying that Moulson was "thrilled" at the prospect of signing with Buffalo, and we found out later that the Sabres were first on his list.

It's not too surprising as he and his wife took to the Buffalo area during his first stint with the club. Before being traded word was coming out that he and the wife really liked it.

Although he won't be with a John Tavares-like center this season, Moulson will be on the top line and is slated to start the season with Tyler Ennis as his center.

The two showed they had some chemistry. In Moulson's first game as a Sabre vs. the Dallas Stars, he went top-shelf on a pass from Ennis.

The speedy, diminutive center would also get a secondary assist on Moulson's other goal that game.
It will be interesting to see what kind of chemistry they have during training camp and into the preseason, but one sure thing come October 9th when the Columbus Blue Jackets come to town for the season opener, Moulson will be the #1 LW for the team.

It's only 152 miles from Cornell University, which is nestled in the Finger Lakes region of NY State, to Buffalo.

Sometimes it takes a thousand mile journey with many ups and downs along the way to traverse a short distance and find oneself a home.

Hopefully, Moulson has found a home with the Sabres.

Building the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres roster:

LW, Matt Moulson/C, Tyler Ennis/

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