Matt Moulson made his return to Los Angeles on Thursday night, but it didn’t quite stir up the feelings one might think.
Originally drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the ninth round of the 2003 draft (263rd overall) – yes, the ninth round, a round that doesn’t even exist anymore – Moulson is lamented by many Kings fans as the one who got away.
Just a few months after Dean Lombardi took over as GM in LA he signed the 6-foot-1 left wing to a free agent contract. Merely a prospect at that point, Moulson was sent to Manchester (AHL), where he put up 25 goals his rookie season. He was off to another hot start the following year before being called up to the big club. Naturally, he scored in his NHL debut on November 2, 2007.
Nearly six years to the day, he was back in LA, this time wearing a Buffalo Sabres jersey.
Certainly, the evening was special, just not for the more obvious reasons.
“Being [Jonathan Quick's] brother-in-law, I don’t think it’s ever not going to be a big deal,” he told MayorsManor after the game. “It’s always fun. Obviously, they got the better of us and myself tonight. I saw some friends on the team too. But, I probably wouldn’t be where I am without the things I learned while with the Kings. So, it’s always fun to get back here.”
He likely had other thoughts about the Kings when he jumped ship and signed a free agent contract with the New York Islanders in the summer of 2009. Back then, the talented forward didn’t get too much time to think about things though. Just four games into the regular season, the Kings came to Long Island and, like nearly all former players do against their old clubs, he promptly potted a goal.
Since then, Moulson hasn’t seen much of the Kings, with the two teams playing in different conferences. Still, entering Thursday night, he had four points in five previous games vs. LA.
However, he – and all of his teammates, for that matter – didn’t appear on the scoresheet this time around, dropping a 2-0 shutout.
Unlike the Rangers’ Brain Boyle, who recently admitted to still wanting to show off for Lombardi, Moulson claims to have no similar thoughts.
“No, I have enough people I have to show [they were wrong about] my career,” he said with a chuckle.
Then, he tried to move things in a more positive direction. “I don’t think I was the player with the Kings that I am today. I’ve obviously matured a lot with age and learning as much as you can, [since] the years you come up. So, I don’t think that [he] goes through my mind.”
Which begs the question, what exactly is going through his mind these days?
It looked like he would be a fixture in New York for many years to come, playing alongside team captain John Tavares. But, not so fast. That whole notion was turned upside down a few weeks ago when he was traded to the Sabres. And many believe he’s only in Buffalo for a short period of time, perhaps being flipped to another team at the Trade Deadline.
“When I come to the rink, I don’t think I really differ my game too much. Whatever happens, happens,” said Moulson. “If I’m here for a little bit, here for a long time, I’m going to enjoy it. The organization’s treated myself and my family extremely well. It’s a business, obviously, so whatever they’ve got to do… I really enjoy playing with the guys on this team. It’s a great bunch of guys. Like I said, I’m going to go out there and play my game. I don’t think I let too many things distract me. Off the ice I have enough things to deal with. When you have a family, it’s probably a little thing on your mind, wondering whether you’re going to get traded or not.”
As if that’s not enough to weigh a player down, he’ll also be an unrestricted free agent next summer. So, even if the Sabres don’t move him, he could still be changing teams again before next October.
Even with an uncertain road ahead - and despite what should be a big payday for a guy who’s had three 30+ goal seasons of late - Moulson isn’t letting outside issues impact his current mindset.
“I don’t think about it at all. These guys have been great at accepting me into the room. Like I said, I really enjoy being part of this team.”
But for how long, that’s the question that remains to be answered.
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